This Industrial Research project focuses on Human-Robot Collaborative (HRC) applications and advancing their uptake within the Irish Manufacturing ecosystem.
The aim of this project is to demystify the safety requirements surrounding collaborative robots and in doing so de-risk the adoption of collaborative systems. To achieve this, IMR developed a fully collaborative application where the operator and the robot work together in the same workspace to accomplish an industrial operation. In particular, two overarching objectives have been defined:
Classical industrial robots can operate at high speeds and with excellent precision but require stringent security measures and a significant factory floor footprint. An alternative paradigm is human-robot collaboration where the robot can carry out the mundane or dangerous portion of the task while the human carries out the complex part. While this presents an attractive model, the lack of clarity about safety requirements is hindering uptake in the Irish manufacturing eco-system.
To demystify the safety requirements around HRC, IMR chose to construct, from the bottom up, a fully collaborative demonstrator where humans and robots work together to assemble a medical device. The application was developed with an aim to ensure the safety of the operator without any external safety equipment relying on (a) the application design (b) the force, power, and speed limitations defined in the safety configuration of the collaborative robot. In doing so, IMR highlighted the pain points associated with this process and earn valuable experience which can then be passed on to partner organisations.
The result of this project is a functional and interactive demonstrator showing a human-robot assembly task, fully risk assessed by an external partner. Additionally, IMR has developed a fully documented risk assessment procedure with intelligent strategies to mitigate risks related to close collaboration.
During the course of the project, several methods of improving the efficiency of the system have been identified. In phase 2 of the Human-Robot Collaboration project, these changes will be implemented in order to maximise the productivity of the cells.
This project provided understanding to partner organisations about the advantages and limitations of human-robot collaborative applications and the corresponding risk assessment process.
Senior Robotics Researcher
Robotics and Automation