Human-Robot Collaboration

How manufacturing profits from human-robot collaboration

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A look into the future of human robot interaction

The current systems, however, are only a first step in the field of human-robot interaction. Thanks to further research in artificial intelligence (AI), the programming of HRC robots will probably become much easier or even unnecessary in the future. Self-teaching programs can certainly make it possible for human robot collaboration to reach a whole new level and for the various grippers and HRC robots, for example, to independently improve production processes and thus ensure even higher productivity. In addition, the robot systems themselves will also become better and more flexible. The use of modern materials and the associated reduction in wear will also significantly reduce maintenance efforts and costs in the long term.

There are still significant developments to be expected in the field of human-robot collaboration, which can hardly be anticipated from today's perspective. Basically, experts assume that human-robot collaboration will only last to a certain extent before human beings no longer need to be involved in the active production process. In this scenario, production will be handled exclusively by robots, while humans will only be responsible for the control of the processes. A collaborative robot might still be a real asset in this day and age, but in fifty years' time the world of manufacturing will have changed significantly.

Safety systems and safety concepts for HRC robots

In human-robot collaboration, elaborated safety systems have an important role to play. After all, a collaborative robot will be operating in direct human-robot interaction without any protective partitions or grids and is often far superior to humans in terms of weight and strength. In human-robot collaboration, humans must therefore be protected by existing and elaborate safety systems at every step of the work process. In total, there are four different approaches that can be applied to human-robot interaction.

1. Power and force limitation of HRC robots

  • With this system, a mechanical, electronic or even sensory restriction of the force is used in the HRC robot to make human robot collaboration safer. It is based on the so-called force atlas consisting of ISO/TS15066 and ISO 10218-2. It comprises so-called biomechanical limit values, which must not be exceeded by robots in direct contact with humans.
  • These safety systems can be applied to any human robot interaction and offer a high level of safety. For example, a gripper cannot exert more force than a human can withstand when their hand is caught by the gripper. In this respect, a collaborative robot must operate with a clearly limited force.

2. Continuous control of speed and distance

  • For this form of human-robot collaboration, a person recognition system must be installed at the HRC robot. The working speed of the robot must be reduced as soon as a person approaches the robot. If the person enters a certain boundary area, the safety systems activate. In this case, a collaborative robot must stop immediately and safely to allow clear control. The human can therefore not get injured because the robot stops all work within a danger radius.

3. Immediate and controlled stop at human interaction

  • This safety system for human-robot interaction is a variant of continuous control. This variant is mainly used when human and HRC robots share a workspace, for example in consecutive production, but do not use this space simultaneously. If a person enters the workspace, the safety systems immediately engage and the HRC robot reliably interrupts its work. In this way, human injury caused by the movement of the robots can be avoided.

4. Manual control of the robot

  • A collaborative robot can be guided manually by a joystick or by a force-moment sensor. In this case, the HRC robot can be guided by simple human contact during human-robot interaction. An important aspect of these safety systems is the clear limitation of the robot's force and speed. In addition, an emergency stop device must always be available in the vicinity of the operator.
  • This makes human-robot collaboration much easier, especially for smaller and delicate productions. The larger the robot in human-robot collaboration, the more difficult it is to effectively implement these safety systems.

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