Humanised robotics are safe and versatile.
Every robot manufacturer’s dream is to create robots which work like humans. However, humans being the most intellectually evolving species on earth have always been superior to any machinery of any kind. Over a period of time, after many experiments, the robotics industry has understood that automation co-processed with human intervention at crucial decision making points and reaching the most inaccessible areas is the best solution.
Some of the leading robot manufacturers have displayed their latest generation robots in recent exhibitions with advanced robotic movements which are flexible in configuration by use of alternate materials, have greater adaptability, internal connectivity is achieved by use of high tech cables, specially developed for such equipment and work nearly as good as humans but still not exactly as humans.
Pradeep David, General Manager, Universal Robots, India explains the nuances of the new gen robotics in an exclusive interview...
Could you educate us with a comparison between semi and fully automated robotics? Which is more popular in India and why?
Fully automated robotics were every manufacturer’s dream in the past. With time, the complexities, demands and model variations have evolved in such a way that manufacturers are seeing the need for semi-automated robotics, where humans and robots can work together. Human ingenuity cannot be substituted by robotics. A good example is of Mercedes who witnessed that, the robots cannot deal with the degree of customisation and the many variants that Mercedes has to offer. Since they produce elite models such as GT sports cars and aim to reduce the hours spent to produce a car, they needed the human expertise as robots are good at reliability and repeatedly performing defined tasks but are not programmed to adapt with such a competitive environment. With manufacturing focused around a skilled crew of workers, Mercedes can shift a production line in a weekend instead
of the weeks needed in the past to reprogram fully automated robots and shift assembly patterns.
What are the new or upcoming areas in robotics for assembly of sub-assemblies and the complete vehicle during manufacture? Could you elaborate with a representative examples?
Currently, we are seeing an upswing in two-wheeler manufacturing, where robots and humans are working together in engine assembly stations. Examples of some of the activities that they co-work on are, engine bolt tightening, sealant and decal applications, deburring and machine tending.
Owing to safety concerns, many automakers are introducing manual intervention in robotic processes. What is your take on the same?
Manual interventions are required in today’s shop floors, because of increase in safety concerns and also better productivity, quality and overall output. In a BMW study by MIT, they found that they have been able to supplement the human ability and free them from tasks that require manual dexterity and ingenuity rather than extreme precision and stamina. These robots are also increasing productivity for manufacturers and giving them new flexibility. An example of such a task is of the co-bots that can be used for sealant applications where the operator is holding the door in position while the co-bot is applying the sealant consistently with a defined force. The study also goes on to say that there has been 85 per cent reduction time in workers’ idle time when they collaborate with robots.
How do you achieve robotic access in small areas of the product on a three dimensional format?
The co-bot needs to be extremely flexible in the finer areas of production. The UR co-bots have unique flexibility and agility as they have a 6-axis with ±360-degree rotation on all joints. Thus, they are able address all the angles with precision and with the absence of blind spots which is very unlike the traditional industrial robots.
To what extent is robotics being applied for non-human friendly applications like electroplating or painting or use of some essential but hazardous chemicals in the manufacturing process?
Robots are being used for all applications generally considered mundane, repetitive, dirty and hazardous. The Universal Robots’ collaborative robots offer a variety of applications depending on the industry, like pick
and place, injection moulding, palletising, CNC, packaging, assembly, polishing, painting, machine trending, gluing
and also dispensing, process application, board handling, screw application
Your comments on the diversity of applications in your equipment.
Globally, our co-bots are being utilised for multiple purposes ranging from photo shoots, bartending, and even for physiotherapy. Our co-bots transcends manufacturing and have been used in a fully functional robotic kitchen as well. For example, at Mr. Mofongo’s, a hidden bar and restaurant in the city of Groningen, the Netherlands, the cocktails are served by the robot arm Armando! The co-bot collaborates with the bartender for
this application to fetch the drinks for the customer.
Any other information you wish to share?
Recently, we were featured on BMW’s 100 year centennial video. Its great as we are the only vendor company to be featured in the same.