Table of contents:
- Differentiated security concept
- Cameras, sensors and intelligent algorithms
- Successfully tested in the laboratory
Video: New Security Technology Turns Industrial Robots Into Cobots
Heavy-duty robots in manufacturing could be dangerous to humans. They are effortlessly able to lift components weighing 200 kg, swivel them around quickly or move at a speed of up to two meters per second. In order to rule out any danger for the employees, the steel colleagues have always done their tasks separately in their own areas. Human-robot collaboration would be much more efficient without spatial separation and a protective fence. But how do you ensure security? The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU now wants to have found a solution for this, which is to be shown at the Hanover Fair 2017.
Differentiated security concept
The Fraunhofer experts have developed a differentiated security concept. According to the researchers, different levels of cooperation were initially defined: the more intensively humans and machines work together, the higher the level and the stricter the safety rules. If a robot were to hand over a component to humans, for example, it would move as slowly and carefully as was specified for this stage. But if humans and robots carried out different tasks and would keep a distance from each other, colleague robots could move at full speed. In total, the Fraunhofer researchers have defined four levels of cooperation.
These stages would be supplemented by dividing the common work area into spatial zones, according to the researchers. These zones are intended to indicate how close humans and robots come. The lowest level distinguishes only two zones: a green and a red. If the employee stays away from the robot, the system displays a green zone, the robot can get started at full speed. If the human gets closer, the red zone is activated, the robot stops immediately. If humans and robots met, for example to exchange components or tools, a green and red zone was added to mark the area of cooperation. Here the heavy-duty robot moves carefully and at low speed.
Cameras, sensors and intelligent algorithms
In order for the robot to react correctly, it must know the employee's position and routes at all times. He can “see” these with the help of several cameras: Two cameras are attached above the work area. They should have an overview of the entire work area and show the current location of the person. Another camera sits on the "head" of the robot and captures the close range. In this way, he can recognize the face or hand of the employee or a component in his hand.
The cameras are supplemented with a number of sensors, the researchers explain. These sensors are supposed to register parameters such as position, acceleration and force of the robot as well as the position and movement of the human being in order to avoid collisions. The intelligent algorithms developed by Fraunhofer IWU help evaluate all of this data. They should ensure that the behavior of the robot and all safety rules are continuously adapted depending on the respective task and situation.
Successfully tested in the laboratory
“Our system is already fully functional and tested in the laboratory. The aim is to have an application tested by the trade association before the end of the year, thereby enabling use in industry,”says Professor Matthias Putz, Director of the Fraunhofer IWU.
This technology can already be tested in virtual reality with VR glasses. The user can experience teamwork with the machine virtually. In VR mode, the system is already running at full speed. "VR technology is therefore an excellent opportunity to realistically test the interaction with the robot," says Professor Putz. In the near future, the Fraunhofer experts want to further refine the system. "In the future, it should be able to adjust to the behavior of the employee by analyzing their movements," explains Putz. “We are also working on gesture recognition. This would allow people to control their steel colleagues with hand movements. For example, by gesturing him to hand him a certain tool.”(Jv)
Hannover Messe 2017: Hall 17, Stand C18
Hanover Fair 2017
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