Fraunhofer IPK

Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology

Assembly assisted by dexterous robots

Last but not least, the production of components with customer-specific characteristics requires innovative robot systems that are able to rapidly adapt to new product variants or tasks. Such robots possess multi-arm systems with articulated hands, tactile and visual sensors, as well as new types of controls that include impedance, force and visual control. These technologies are enabling robots to carry out complex assembly tasks despite of errors and tolerances – they can now, for instance, assemble gears on shafts. This does not only make them more flexible, it may also change their field of application: New types of robots are able to assist people working in complex assembly processes and to minimize physical or mental stresses – e.g. when handling heavy parts or with monotonous repetitive tasks – or even relieve employees completely of these burdens. They will also increase the opportunities to optimize capacity utilization in factory assembly departments, because it will become possible to distribute jobs flexibly between staff and robots depending on the job and attendance situation. 

The new robots are able to actively communicate with people using spoken language, gestures and similar forms of interaction. They also detect the presence and movements of people in their work area and adapt their behavior accordingly. In addition, they provide advance notification to people about their own activities and movements. The most important features that the new robot systems offer are their innovative programming and controls, which make it possible for people to intuitively and interactively instruct robots using voice and gestures or to efficiently program them graphically with the help of prepared modules. Robots will be programmed and controlled on a behavior-oriented basis to enable them to rapidly adapt to dynamically changing environments, whereby different robot skills will be activated depending on the environment and tasks. Increased safety using advanced visual, tactile and other sensors enables the new robots to share the workspace actively and dynamically with people.

Finally, the »Flexible Transparent Manufacturing« concept presented at Hannover Messe 2016 comes full circle at Station 5. By incorporating robots and machines into such systems as the Industry Cockpit, they can be remotely monitored, and quality-relevant information can be observed and analyzed during the process. Such tracking makes it possible to detect sources of errors at an early stage and minimize delays caused by machining errors or machine failures. Also, machine operators will be significantly supported in their task of ensuring the availability of »their« machines. The resources required to this end could, for example, be made available through the cloud.