Flexible Division of Labor with Two-Arm Robots
Conditions are changing in industrial production – the variety of products is increasing while product lifecycles are becoming shorter. This means that when it comes to automation solutions new approaches need to be taken. In many areas, dedicated full automation will likely be replaced by flexible division of labor between humans and robots in the future. A new generation of industrial robots handles a wide range of tasks that until now had to be performed manually.
For these applications, various suppliers have developed robot systems with two arms and a human-like stature. With seven axes per arm, they replicate human movements and are thus able to use the same tools as humans. The original sequence of operations thus does not need to be changed. In addition, learning new tasks is not complicated at all. The operator shows the robot the tasks, for instance, simply by guiding it manually. Based on this training, the robot develops its own path and actions. Thanks to built-in visual and haptic sensors, the robots are able to handle changing tasks autonomously. The ability for cooperation between a human and the robot represents an additional benefit. Thanks to collision recognition and force control – for instance, through use of joint torque sensors – a human and robot can work safely in the same area.
As a result of the relatively low investment required, such automation solutions are also interesting for small and medium-sized companies. At present, the manufacturers Yaskawa, Humanrobotics and Universal Robots are offering two-arm robots. They are already being used for laboratory work or assembly of electronic components. The automation specialists ABB, Epson and Kuka have announced that they will be starting series production of two-arm robots in the second half of 2014.