What’s New In Robotics This Week – 15.06.2018

Start production faster with Lean Robotics

-Manufacturing & Cobot Roundup
-ARM announces funding awardees
-RIA’s Top 6 Robotics Trends
-Meet HuggieBot
-Comedy Improv Bot
-And much more!

Manufacturing & cobot roundup

Pittsburgh-based Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) announced the awardees of its first round of funding for advanced manufacturing research projects. ARM has awarded US$2.8 million to four project teams, while the teams will contribute approximately US$4 million in cost-share. (H/T Advanced Manufacturing)

Two of the projects are focused on human-robot collaboration.

‘Smart Companion Robot for Automotive Assembly’ brings experts from Clemson University Siemens, BMW, and Yaskawa together to build a new intelligent mobile manipulator robotic system (dubbed ‘Smart Companion Robot’), “to assist and augment human associates in automotive final assembly, where intensive manual manipulation remains the mainstay.” Here’s video from last year of a prototype…

The second project –‘iWired’– will see experts from United Technologies Research Center, University of Connecticut and ABB combine efforts to “use perception-enabled collaborative robotics that leverage dexterous manipulation” to automate assembly in wire harness production for the aerospace sector.

ABB launched what it describes as the “world’s first commercial modular enabled process automation solution”, which combines “an orchestration layer and a module layer integrated with the technology of module type packages.”

Two UR10 cobots from Universal Robots have been implemented at automaker Group PSA’s Sochaux plant in France. The cobots are used in screw-driving applications on body-in-white assembly lines to increase performance and reduce production costs….

The Robotic Industries Association published its “Top 6 Future Trends In Robotic Automation” this week, with collaborative robots expected to “play a key role” in the near term:

6. Collaborative Robots Will Continue to Grow in Popularity

Collaborative robots can work safely alongside humans and are often far cheaper than their industrial counterparts. As collaborative robots become more capable in tough industrial settings, they will see greater adoption by manufacturers with strict ROI requirements.

It seems as though just a few years ago, there was a real question mark over the viability of cobot solutions. A handful of analysts would talk about cobots as a potentially viable future technology to watch.

But over the past few years, cobots been “stealing the show” on a regular basis at trade events and conferences. In the same time period, real-world case study after real-world case study have strengthened the argument in support of human-robot collaboration in manufacturing environments.

Fast forward to mid-2018. Universal Robots’ CTO and Cofounder Esben H. Østergaard has just
received the Engelberger Award. Cobot sales are continuing to rise –from 5% share of the $14 billion industrial-robot market in 2017 to 27% of a $33 billion market by 2025, according to estimates from Minneapolis-based venture-capital firm Loup Ventures.

Perhaps the most notable shift of all is that
the general consensus among analysts, trade organizations and end-users has changed: Not only are cobots a proven technology that’s here to stay, but human-robot collaboration is a critical component of future success in the manufacturing sector.

BA Systèmes’ ‘Platform for Robot Controller Construction’ (PRC2) project has been developing Europe’s “first mobile cobot”…

Japanese robot makers Fanuc and Yaskawa Electric are beating their main rivals –ABB and KUKA– in profit margin, according to a report in
Nikkei Asian Review:

In the current fiscal year, Fanuc’s net profit-to-sales ratio is projected at 24% and Yaskawa’s at 10%, according to data from QUICK-FactSet. ABB’s margin is forecast at 7% and Kuka’s at 4%.

In-house production of core component motors helps the Japanese players secure wider margins, said Yoshinao Ibara of Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities. Fanuc’s thoroughly automated production processes also contribute to high profitability.

Boise State University announced a partnership with Taiwanese robotics firm NEXCOM to create the NexCOBOT-Idaho AI Robot Innovation Space in the university’s school of engineering.

OmniPainter is a new, autonomous painting robot for manufacturing finishing lines that uses 3D vision and AI to self-program itself and paint any objects suspended on an overhead conveyor…


A team of Hong Kong-based engineers have developed the world’s first robotics system capable of performing brain surgery inside an MRI scanner, according to a report in South China Morning Post.

The new system could pave the way for more accurate and efficient treatment of illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.

Caption: PhD candidate Guo Ziyan and consultant neurosurgeon Dr Danny Chan Tat-ming show off their creation. Photo: Felix Wong

The European Parliament approved European Union-wide rules for drone safety, a move that’s expected to bring clarity to both drone makers and end users.

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have demonstrated distributed real time control of multiple drones in an adversarial environment…

If you’ve had a tough week or your team hasn’t qualified for World Cup 2018, I have two bots just for you.

Created by the Haptic Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, ‘HuggieBot’ is a modified PR2 bot that provides humans with life- and health-enhancing hugs. (NBC has more.)

Next up is Blueberry, a bot from the University of Alberta, Canada that is studying the art of comedy improv…

I’ll be back next week with more robotics news for automatica. Until then…

Five vids for Friday

1. Festo revealed the gorgeous BionicFinWave, a robot inspired by the undulating fin movements of cuttlefish.

2. The Robotics Innovation Center is part of the Bremen location of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, where exerts develop “mobile, next generation robotic systems which are able to safely cooperate with humans and to solve complex tasks independently.”

3. With bee populations diving in North America, Dropcopter Drones are being used to pollinate an apple orchard in New York.

4. Robotics expert Sethu Vijayakumar’s TEDx explores the types of robotic technology we would need to use on unmanned Mars missions to prepare for human deployment to the planet.

5. A recent Google Talk –featuring Jens Ludwig, Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab on the controversial topic of applying machine learning to crime reduction initiatives in Chicago and other public policy areas– went online.