Human-Robot Collaboration

Context & Aim

This Industrial Research project focuses on Human-Robot Collaborative (HRC) applications and advancing their uptake within the Irish Manufacturing ecosystem. The project has 4 primary objectives:

 

  • Clarify the unique value proposition & position of HRC within the Industrial Automation Ecosystem.
  • Understand the barrier to uptake of HRC Applications.
  • Create and disseminate tools & services that enable an increased number of customers to efficiently and effectively evaluate their potential HRC applications.
  • Demonstrate real-world benefits of adopting HRC in industry.

 

The project is structured into 3 work packages:

Automation Assessment Tool

Challenge

By using exact figures and production estimates end-users have historically been able to justify an investment in fixed automation. However, the introduction of new automation paradigms associated with HRC applications such as Collaborative, Adaptive, and Sensitive Robotic systems, has led to further confusion about optimal automation strategies and their respective return on investment.

Solution

IMR has developed a framework and assessment methodology aimed at providing clarity on the different automation paradigms and their position within the ecosystem.
This Automation Assessment Tool will allow Engineering Managers to have initial feedback on whether different paradigms of automation are suitable or not for their application.

Result

The Automation Assessment Tool has been developed as a responsive webtool. The market-validated algorithm takes as input the ratings of different criteria that are characteristic of the process and yields a recommendation chart, displaying a ranking of the most and least suitable automation paradigms for the rated process.

Impact

This tool provides clarity on automation strategies for Engineering Managers, who can use it to select the correct automation paradigm for their application. The correct choice of automation will allow them to leverage cost savings, quality improvements & productivity enhancements in their application which would otherwise have remained manually operation or sub-optimally automated.

Industry Survey

Challenge

While the advantages offered by Collaborative Robots and their applications are widely acknowledged, their uptake in industry is still slow. Less than 4% of the 381,000 industrial robots globally installed in 2017 were Cobots (IFR) and the percentage of these involved in Human-Robot Collaboration applications is still unknown.

Solution

In conjunction with a consortium of industrial partners, an industry survey was developed to operate as a primary research on the true reasons Collaborative Robotics Applications are not wide-spread. The objective of the survey is to understand the current state of HRC applications in manufacturing and the concerns which prevent their wider adoption.

Result

The industry survey is available as a digital version for engineers and managers to fill in. An observation report has been extracted from the current set of data and is accessible to the supporting partners.

Impact

The information extracted from the survey allows a clearer understanding of where the barriers to the adoption of Human-Robot Collaborative applications lie. This is helping to define our research activities and thus maximise the impact for the Irish manufacturing ecosystem.

Fully Collaborative Demonstrator

Challenge

Classical industrial robots can operate at high speeds and with excellent precision but require stringent security measures and 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.

Solution

To de-mystify the safety requirements around HRC, IMR chose to construct, from the bottom up, a fully collaborative demonstrator where human and robot would work together to assemble a medical device. In doing so, IMR would highlight the pain points associated with this process and earn valuable experience which can then be passed on to partner organisations.

Result

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 developped a fully documented risk assessment procedure with intelligent strategies to mitigate risks related to close collaboration.

Impact

This project provided understanding to partner organisations about the advantages and limitations of human robot collaborative applications. (REDF, End users)

Human-Robot Collaborative Demonstrator

PROJECT MANAGER

Philip Long
Industrial Researcher

 

TECHNICAL LEAD

Sabine Giron
Collaborative Robotics Researcher

THEMATIC PILLAR

Automation & Advanced Control

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