Efficient and, above all, competitive manufacturing poses ever greater challenges to small and medium-sized businesses. One way to remain competitive and at the same time counteract the shortage of skilled workers is automation. Mobile robotics offer undreamt-of possibilities.
Price pressure, shortage of skilled workers, individualisation – the challenges facing companies in the age of Industry 4.0 affect every sector. What is needed are intelligent solutions allowing to meet the customers’ requirements for producing high quality within a short time and often in small volumes. One possibility: mobile automation. The advancing human-robot collaboration allows the industry to develop completely new approaches to support production and logistics with robot technology and to stay competitive at the same time.
Mobile helpers moving around freely
With a combination of mobile platforms and so-called cobots, KUKA offers mobile robot systems that can safely navigate and act within human working environments. This does not only allow automation of fetch-and-carry services, but also the loading and unloading of machines, assembly activities at different locations, measuring tasks at test stations and much more.
The KUKA.NavigationSolution software enables mobile helpers to move freely around the workspace without cables. In combination with omnidirectional wheel technology, navigation is possible in the most confined spaces with very high positioning accuracy. To ensure this, the control software records the data provided by the safety laser scanners and wheel sensors and uses the SLAM method (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) to create a map of the environment. Using this map, the platform positions itself in real time and responds to changes in the environment that constantly occur in a flexible logistics system. The mobile platform independently finds its way through production.
High flexibility in terms of size and load capacity
The master control uses the KUKA fleet manager to manage all vehicles and thereby coordinates the planning and execution of jobs coming from the customer’s production management system (ERP). The size and load bearing capacity of the mobile platforms and robots can vary, ranging from 200 kilogrammes with the KMP 200 to 90 tonnes with the KUKA omniMove heavy-duty vehicles. Combination with the LBR iiwa sensitive lightweight robot (7 to 14 kilogrammes load capacity) or the KR CYBERTECH with up to 22 kilogrammes is also possible.
The use of special sensors makes the 7-axis LBR iiwa robot particularly suited for human-robot collaboration: in the event of an unforeseen contact, the robot stops automatically to protect its human colleagues. The KUKA.NavigationSolution ensures that the KMR iiwa autonomously processes its tasks, which can be modularly adapted in accordance with the customer’s needs and the requirement profile. Due to the omnidirectional wheel drive, the mobile production assistant manoeuvres absolutely safely even within confined spaces: the positioning accuracy is within a range of ±5 millimetres with the optional fine localisation and positioning. With an optional camera on the robot flange, it is possible to improve the positioning accuracy on the robot gripper down to the sub-millimetre range.
Support from professionals
In mould and die production, for example, the mobile robot is able to autonomously pick up workpieces, transport them from one machining station to the next and insert the necessary tools into the machine. For companies this results in a significant increase in productivity: larger series, for example, can be produced automatically overnight, while in normal operation during the day small series requiring a higher degree of manual intervention are produced. At the same time, they enable skilled workers to be deployed efficiently where they are needed. Even complete product changeovers can be performed more easily and more cost-effective with the help of automation: the driverless production assistants work with great precision and almost without errors. The payback period for the mobile production helpers is usually less than two years. This makes them particularly attractive for machine tool users.
The KMR iiwa is a flexible and autonomously navigating platform that takes the sensitive robot to where it is needed.
The KMR CYBERTECH, an omnidirectional mobile platform with robot, opens up new, scalable manufacturing concepts, such as the loading of machine tools with tools.
With the LBR iiwa, KUKA has laid the foundation for a completely new human-robot relationship: direct and safe collaboration – without a safety fence.
KUKA is an international automation group with a turnover of approx. EUR 2.6 billion and around 14,000 employees. The company’s headquarters are located in Augsburg. As one of the world’s leading providers of intelligent automation solutions, KUKA offers customers everything from a single source: from robots and cells through to fully automated systems and their network integration in markets such as automotive, electronics, metal and plastic, consumer goods, e-commerce/retail and healthcare. www.kuka.com