What tipped the scales in favor of our contribution ‘Open platform for skilled motions in productive robotics’ was the fact that the LTH control system solutions quickly found their way to ABB products and to applications in automobile production,” says Klas Nilsson, assistant professor of Computer Science and one of the prime movers in the project, where key roles have also been played by Mattias Haage from Computer Science and Anders Robertsson, Tomas Olsson, Anders Blomdell, and Rolf Johansson from Automatic Control together with associates from ABB Robotics in Västerås.
“For a market-driven organization like ABB it is extremely difficult to pursue short- and long-term development simultaneously. Therefore, we are dependent on successful cooperation with universities and research institutes. The development of force-feedback control robots together with Lund University is a prime example of how industry and academia should collaborate,” says Torgny Brogårdh,
Company Senior Specialist at ABB.
The technology differs from other solutions because of its high
performance in terms of speed and accuracy, combined with the fact that it meets industrial requirements regarding safety. Whereas other robots with user-defined sensing can register 1-10 observations per second, robots using the new control system and software can register 250 observations per second. What’s more, the reaction time is around
one thousandth of a second, while today’s ordinary robots need more than a hundred times as much time to react to external events or variations in their environment.
“The need for industrial robots that can cope with external changes is tremendous. In the casting industry alone, 300,000 people around the world work with removing so-called casting burrs, that is waste outside the form that has to be eliminated from each piece produced.
Since each burr is unique, this removal has to be done manually, which entails health-care costs of €150 million per year in Europe alone as a result of hospitalization from toilsome, monotonous, and sometimes dangerous work,” says Anders Robertsson.
Screwing in a light bulb is another example of a skill that humans possess but robots can’t master. Humans instinctively feel when it’stime to stop turning. A robot, on the other hand, normally stops when it was programmed to stop. Using the new technology the robot would be able to rapidly sense and react to external pressure and therefore carry out similar actions that are common in assembly work but have
thus far been so difficult to automate.
The Euron Technology Transfer Award is conferred upon prominent innovations in robot technology and automation that were developed by academia and industry working in tandem. It is awarded by Euron, the European Robotics Network, an official EU network in robotics for universities and companies that do research in the field, together with the European Robotics Association.
This genesis of this technological solution can be traced to the EU project named Autofett (AUTOmated deFETTing, see www.autofett.org), in which LTH and ABB were two of nine
partners. The project participants were tasked to create a prototype for cleaning casting burrs. The systems engineering solutions developed by Lund University for the project were then adapted for use by ABB. Several
other companies have expressed an interest in the new technology. The development of the Autofett prototype into a product is being done today by ABB.