The industrial automation industry is facing a fundamental change and, according to SCHUNK’s chief innovation officer Prof. Dr. med. Markus Glück, human-robot collaboration in manufacturing is certain to grow dramatically in the coming years. This importance of this trend was reflected in the large turnout for the 4th SCHUNK User and Technology Dialogue on ‘Using HRC Safely in Companies.’ The two-day event featured specialists in automotive, robotics, automation and engineering as well as medium-sized industrial companies from Germany and Europe discussing the applications and opportunities of human-robot collaboration (HRC) and experiencing them up close.
Glück is confident that co-acting, meaning unrestricted interaction with robots, is on the verge of a breakthrough. The main driving forces are ergonomic relief, greater flexibility of work processes, increased efficiency as well as the expansion of logistics, loading, handling and retrofitting.
“It’s all about bringing together the strengths of humans and robots,” said Glück. Combining the speed, power, repeat accuracy and high quality of robotics with the human strengths of perception, improvisation, reaction and adaptation, will create synergy toward maximising automation.
Meanwhile, first-time projects require a substantial amount of work that should not be underestimated, according to Glück. “The usual amortisation periods of less than two years will be difficult to achieve at the beginning,” he said. He recommended a systematic approach in which the suitability of the HRC application is first assessed based on specific eligibility criteria, such as the programming cost or the ability to implement operator guidance, the cost of integrating the application into the process chain, options for intuitive training, handling and acknowledgment, moderate cycle requirements as well the employees’ relationship with technology.
He also recommended conducting a business assessment that takes into account the costs of robot procurement, commissioning and integration as well as costs for safety precautions and certification. Conversely, however, the assessment must also consider the savings achieved by lowering personnel costs and increasing productivity. Above all, first-time projects should be thoughtfully approached, carefully planned and implemented with less complexity.
The 4th SCHUNK User and Technology Dialogue featured presentations from SCHUNK product manager Benedikt Janssen, who discussed SCHUNK’s options for cobot peripherals; Jochen Vetter, team leader for robot safety at PILZ, who gave an overview of standards-compliant use of HRC as well as reliable measurement of applied forces; Dr. Alfred Hypki, senior engineer at the Department of Production Systems of the Ruhr University Bochum, who presented a standardised questionnaire, which enables fast, objective and reliable assessment of HRC potential in companies; Sebastian Keller, production specialist for the BMW Group at the Leipzig plant, who explained how HRC is successfully employed in day-to-day production; Jens Kotlarski, managing director of Yuanda Robotics in Hanover, Germany, who gave an impressive presentation on the creative potential and dynamism of start-ups in the field of HRC; and Uwe Schmidt, head of the COBOT World division of HLS Ingenieurbüro GmbH in Augsburg, who demonstrated how HRC scenarios can be implemented in the real world.
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