The role of humans in the production of tomorrow is often discussed. Which new tasks will emerge? Which ones can robots take on, and how will humans and robots work together? Answers to these questions and other practical solutions are being researched by Festo together with partners from science and industry in the project ‘Work in the industry of the future’ (ARIZ). One of the main focus points here is on safe human–robot cooperation.
Machines and robots with comprehensive safety systems and corresponding sensor technology make it possible for man and machine to move in the same working space and work together without a protective cage. Ever since the Scharnhausen Technology Plant was opened in 2015, Festo has been gathering experiences relating to the interaction between production workers and robots. An assembly robot is allowed to work alongside people without a safety fence. It takes the strain off its human colleagues in the valve assembly department and takes on the exhausting and onerous gripping and joining tasks. A highly sensitive sensor skin on the robot’s arm monitors the robot’s movements: as soon as an employee comes too close, the robot comes to a complete stop.
Aims of the project
One of the main aims of the ARIZ project is to establish a flexible and adaptive production assistant in safe human–machine cooperation. This does not have to be a classic articulated robot, as is already used in some production facilities. The adaptive and flexible robot is intended to be used at changing production workplaces. It is supposed to relieve the employees here by assisting the human and taking over monotonous, ergonomically repetitive tasks from it. In this respect, the safety of the employees has the ultimate priority. Working together with representatives of the trade associations, these safety aspects are being examined.
Another aim of the project is to find out the special qualification requirements of the employees that work with the robots at these production workplaces and to then put an appropriate learning system into practice. This learning system will enable the employees to best prepare for their future task.
RWTH Aachen University is researching the effects of human–robot cooperation in terms of occupational science – for example, in terms of acceptance.
Until now robots have only usually taken on a programmed operating sequence. The aim in the project is to develop a demonstrator for the highly variable production sector, which can take on various tasks: in accordance with adaptive production, the idea is for it not to be fixed in place, but instead to be mobile and used in a flexible way. The robot assistant will be networked with the overriding IT system so that it is able to access information itself and hence make the configuration easier for the operators. In this way, when it comes to gripping tasks, for instance, the employees only have to enter the dimensions of the object being gripped and the robot is ready for action.
In order to reduce the time-consuming inspection process for machines located in the factory without a safety fence, the project team works with simulations. This means that hazardous situations can be run through virtually and that the robot can also be put into operation virtually. The demonstrator will be used at Festo in the Scharnhausen Technology Plant.
Besides Festo Automation, Festo Didactic is also involved in the ARIZ project. In the project, Didactic is developing the learning system for the human–machine cooperation in the production of the future.
From the world of science
- Human-Computer Interaction Center at RWTH Aachen University (HCIC)
- Institute for Management Cybernetics e.V. at RWTH Aachen University (IfU)
- Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University (IMA)
- Center for Learning and Knowledge Management at RWTH Aachen University (ZLW)
- robomotion GmbH
The ARIZ project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the funding code 01FG14003A as part of the ‘Innovations for the production, services and work of tomorrow’.