The notion that robots can not only be entertaining but also useful has been well known in production environments and in daily life for a long time. Robot vacuum cleaners are used as small helpers in increasingly more private households. On the other hand, the fascination for new and smarter machines varies strongly in today's society. The reason is the fear of machines taking on more and more complex tasks, working hand in hand with humans and doing the same work and thus being eventually replaced in the near future. But that is too short-sighted. Collaborations of humans and robots are an enrichment for everyone and exactly what we need to open the rigid borders of today's working world. And the area of application seems to be almost unlimited.
Coffee from the machine, coffee out of the machine
Imagine you're sitting in the office and the thirst for coffee hits you. You are about to get up, the little robot rolls next to your table and happily awaits your coffee order. You tap him gratefully on the shoulder and he begins. He takes a cup, fills it with milk and sugar, handles the coffee machine and serves the final beverage. As absurd as this idea of a person operating a machine, that in turn operates a machine may seem, the idea behind the entertainment factor is just as fruitful and educating.
Leaving the entertainment corner, entering the world of work
Inspired by the idea of human and robot working together at the common work place, the robotics experts at EDAG PS developed the concept of the coffee-boiling robot and implemented it as part of their final thesis. They present an almost autonomous robot that prepares a coffee upon an initial order, including the choice of cup and dosing of milk and sugar. With a simple touch, the process can be stopped at any time, reducing the risks to the usual level. In the industrial production process, it is now possible for human and robotic workers to work closely together, literally hand in hand. No security fences, no limits.
Picture from l.t.r.t.r.u.: Detecting and aligning handholds, operating coffee machine, filling of milk and sugar
Advantages of the work sharing
This apparently simple example shows one thing very clearly: more efficiency through work-sharing. Of course, this can be applied to many other situations. The tactile sensitivity of the robot complements the rationality and experience of the human being. The endurance and ability to repeat always the same movements are the strengths of the machine. Thanks to the ergonomic advantage of the machine operator, it is possible to involve workers regardless of their age or physical condition. Especially in the area of assembly, costs and working time can be saved and at the same time the quality of the output can be increased. The result is a flexible production process.
Problem-related expert teams
When integrating a collaborative robot into an existing process, robotic knowledge is combined with production planning skills within the relevant safety standards. And this is exactly the strength of EDAG PS. Specialists from all engineering disciplines work together to meet specific customer requirements. They combine technical skill, creative curiosity and hands-on experience to become a fertile base for innovations of exactly this kind.
Man and machine - one team
In a human-machine collaboration, special safety requirements must be met and implemented. For example by applying power and pressure limits. The sensitive robot systems, which were developed, among other things, for cooperation with humans, are so power-sensitive that they register touches of any intensity and react to them instantly. Despite all the advantages, such as sensitivity and caution in dealing with humans, there is still a lack of acceptance for this kind of collaborations.One reason could be the fear that robots will become competitors for partners who work hand in hand with humans and who occupy human jobs.
This is why our robotics experts are always focused on implementation and evaluate the potential applications of the sensitive robots directly in the plants. Here they analyse the production workstations and identify opportunities together with clients to improve existing processes through the use of smart teams. In production, a well-designed human-robot collaboration can significantly optimize the process flow, but why not simply examine possible applications in the office as in our master thesis...?
Are you looking for new formats and opportunities in your production process? Do you want to know how you can improve the quality of your product with the help of intelligent workspace concepts? Would you like to see the innovative potential of the robot colleague and find out how you can meet the future standards of industry 4.0? Our colleague Daniel Roth, robotics expert at EDAG PS, will be happy to answer your questions and provide any suggestions.