In addition to series production, there is a trend in industry towards individualization of products. In addition to the digital networking of entire systems, learning systems with artificial intelligence and robots that work hand-in-hand with humans play a central role in batch size 1 production. The BionicWorkplace combines all these requirements in a future-oriented working environment.
A central component of the working environment is the BionicCobot. The pneumatic lightweight robot is modeled on the human arm in its anatomical structure and – like its biological role model – solves many tasks with the aid of its flexible and sensitive movements. Thanks to its flexibility and intuitive operation, the BionicCobot can interact directly and safely with humans. In doing so, it supports the operator in monotonous work and takes over handles that are dangerous for people.
In the BionicWorkplace, the bionic robot arm works together with numerous assistance systems and peripheral devices that are networked and communicate with each other. At the same time, artificial intelligence and machine learning methods make the BionicWorkplace a learning and anticipatory system that continuously optimizes itself.
The entire workplace is ergonomically designed and can be individually adapted to people, even including the lighting. In the centre of the operator's field of vision is a large projection screen. It provides the worker with all relevant information and reacts dynamically with its contents to the respective requirements. Various sensors and camera systems are mounted around the projection screen, which permanently record the positions of workers, components and tools. This allows people to interact directly with the BionicCobot and control it via movement, touch or speech.
The system recognizes the worker and his/her movements by his/her special working clothes. These so-called wearables consist of a long-sleeved top equipped with inertial sensors and a working glove with integrated infrared markers. Using the recorded sensor data, the BionicCobot can hand over objects to its human colleague with pinpoint accuracy and, if necessary, avoid the worker – an indispensable prerequisite for direct collaboration between humans and robots.
The intelligent software processes all camera images, position data and inputs of the various peripheral devices simultaneously. It derives the optimal program sequence from all this information. The system then divides the tasks expediently to the robot and other tools in order to give the human the best support whilst working.
With every solved action, the system learns more. The result is referred to as a semantic map and it grows continuously. Along the network paths, the algorithms permanently draw dynamic conclusions. In this way, there is a gradual shift from a controlled, programmed and fixed sequence to a much freer working environment.
Another element of the intuitive operating concept is remote manipulation. A 3D stereo camera with a viewing angle of 180 degrees covers the entire working area. At the same time, the worker, who is moving about within a separate area, wears virtual reality glasses in addition to the textile wearables. With these glasses, he/she can call up and follow the camera's images in real time. This allows the robot to be controlled either from a separated area or from a safe distance.
Intelligent, adaptive workplaces such as the BionicWorkplace and the use of multifunctional tools will make the interaction between humans and machines even more intuitive, simple and efficient in the future. Once learned, knowledge modules and new skills can be shared without borders and made available globally. This would make it possible to network workplaces worldwide in the future.
A possible future scenario that combines all the essential elements of robotics: the BionicWorkplace in combination with the BionicMotionRobot and a Robotino®.