Advanced Manufacturing Solutions

by Sep 13, 2021Industry 4.0

Collaborative robots interconnected and quickly programmable

These are robot systems, smart programming systems that allow interconnection and communication between them.

The new generations of industrial robots must not be understood as production machines for large batches but as a tool, an aid responding to the high variability required by the market combined with high product quality. The next-generation collaborative robots are purpose-built for small and medium-sized businesses that need flexible hardware with a fast return on their investment. The weight is low and they are easy to move around the production area.

In the paradigm of Industry 4.0, robots that collaborate with human operators for the execution of production processes will be a fundamental resource of factories. Human-robot cooperation technologies will offer operators natural ways to use (usability) and a high level of confidence in the functionality of the machines (reliability, maintainability, availability and security). The use will be simple and intuitive, making both the techniques and technologies used to realise the functions of the robotic devices not necessarily visible or perceptible. These technologies will make it possible to obtain robotic agents that are not isolated from the production environment that is occupied by human operators but to actively participate in cooperative processes in shared environments. The robotic agent (often referred to as “co-worker”), immersed in a 4.0 factory context, while remaining an automatic machine will be characterized by quasi-human interaction skills: in contact interactions the sensory and perceptive experience will be very similar to the natural one, as well as the movements and behaviors of the robots will follow “cognitively acceptable” patterns (low speeds, soft trajectories, non-hostile shapes, predictable operations, contacts with compliance).

In addition to physical interaction, which by definition cancels the distances and separations between operators and robots, the technologies for sharing the workspace will be aimed at transforming the traditional factory into a more fluid and dynamic, open and interactive environment (measurement and monitoring of the environment and operators, dynamic allocation of programs, navigation of mobile platforms, secure virtual spaces, multirobot technologies).
In addition to physical interaction, which by definition cancels the distances and separations between operators and robots, the technologies for sharing the workspace will be aimed at transforming the traditional factory into a more fluid and dynamic, open and interactive environment (measurement and monitoring of the environment and operators, dynamic allocation of programs, navigation of mobile platforms, secure virtual spaces, multirobot technologies) Specifically, cooperation is characterized differently (or can be defined) at various levels such as:

Physics (physical Human-Robot Interaction, pHRI):

where there is direct exchange of energy between human operators and robotic agents, for example in joint manipulation and contact (intentional or accidental). Examples of this modality include the intuitive programming (lead-through programming) in which a manipulator is trained accompanying the movement, physically guiding the manipulator along trajectories, to be repeated autonomously subsequently; the concurrent handling of the same parts (material handling) for large loads or particular positioning; the possibility of limiting / stopping the motion or the execution of automatic tasks by directly hindering the manipulator for intentional reasons or for emergency interventions;

Functional

where the organization of the production space provides for competition between human and robotic operators. The collaboration can take either serial modes (production workflow steps alternating between robot / operator) or parallel (independent operations joined to certain steps). In the case of shared tasks, these must necessarily be carried out in collaboration for the sole purpose of achieving maximum effectiveness or in cases where the simple replacement of the operator does not give added value or the process cannot be achieved otherwise. Examples include specific assembly cases, in which the robot co-manipulates large parts or prepares guides / assembly aids. In the case of parallel processes, the organization of the shared workspace (workspace sharing) makes use of motion rescheduling technologies (collision avoidance, speed reduction, target reallocation) and of the task (adaptive rescheduling) in order to guarantee the presence safe for the operator in the shared space;

Cognitive

complementary to the previous ones, where the organization of shared processes provides for a certain degree of interpretation of the context (context awareness). The transparency of interaction between man and robot is greater the more extensive is the extent of the transfer of activities, commands, explicit information from the operator to the robot. That is, the more the robotic agent undertakes to interpret and manage information locally (e.g. specific tasks in relation to a specific processing step, program parts in relation to a specific cell configuration, specific configurations in relation to particular contexts risk), the less the overhead of explicit (redundant) transfer of knowledge from the operator to the machine with consequent reduction of execution times, improvement of the user experience, greater flexibility and speed of task reorganization. This component acts not only at the device level (robot) through a series of behavior and gesture recognition technologies (typically including three-dimensional vision sensors, reconstruction of environments and of the human counterpart, model-based matching, machine learning, deep learning, etc.) ; but also at the system level since the single information generated locally is distributed and shared with other involved agents (process planning, system supervision, resource allocation, etc). To make this systematization of information possible, technologies of an architectural level are necessary, including both infrastructures (control system architectures, knowledge-base control) and modeling components (environment modeling, behavior modeling, sensor data modeling, object modeling).

The various levels of cooperation will contribute to building a system of sensory, motor and cognitive-functional skills such as to create, in the context of the 4.0 Factory, a community of mixed agents (human and robotic) whose flexibility in the allocation of activities, behaviors and tasks it will be very high.

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