KUKA Setting an automated course with a sensitive delivery champion

Author / Editor: Ulrike Kroehling / Lisa Saller, Lisa Saller

With the KMR iiwa mobile robot, KUKA is implementing an autonomous transportation solution in its own production

KUKA KMR iiwa@KUKA Roboter GmbH
KUKA KMR iiwa@KUKA Roboter GmbH

Human-robot collaboration (HRC) alone is not sufficient to make production more flexible in the long term. In the near future, it must be possible for robots to be used in mobile applications. Mounted on mobile platforms, they move independently through production shops and transport goods or workpieces, thereby modernizing logistic processes in the production of tomorrow. Now, KUKA Roboter GmbH too is benefiting from this at its headquarters in Augsburg. With the development, production and sale of industrial robots, controllers and software, the company is one of the global market leaders. The company’s own robot production facility has now switched from a multiple-line system to single-line manufacturing in accordance with cutting-edge lean production methods. The KMR iiwa mobile robot (KMR stands for “KUKA Mobile Robotics, iiwa for “intelligent industrial work assistant”) is an autonomously navigating platform combined with a KUKA LBR iiwa lightweight robot. Here, it automatically supplies production material to the KR QUANTEC in-line wrist assembly station.


Setting new standards in the production of tomorrow

“We want to gear our manufacturing operations towards the future and, at the same time, considerably boost our efficiency. Our objective is to reach a capacity of over 20,000 robots per year in Augsburg. We can achieve our aim only if we restructure our robot assembly processes in accordance with the latest lean manufacturing methods,” explains Andreas Ostermann von Roth, Executive Vice President of Operations at KUKA Robotics, as to why the approximately 140-meter production line was built with a greater degree of automation. The “just-in-sequence” (JIS) delivery of the assembly material is an important component here. KUKA has developed a full range of solutions for this purpose – from manually relocatable lightweight robots to systems that run fully autonomously. New applications are already possible, particularly in logistics, and there specifically in warehousing. This allows both materials and robots to always be deployed exactly where they are needed most.

KMR iiwa automatically delivers bolts, nuts and more

KUKA uses the KMR iiwa in its own production. A KANBAN solution is being implemented in assembly of the KUKA KR QUANTEC. Here, the KMR iiwa takes over the distribution of screws, bolts, sealing rings, nuts and other small parts. WÜRTH delivers the ordered KANBAN boxes to the central warehouse rack. At regular intervals, the KMR iiwa uses its sensitive capabilities to check the individual shelves and remove the delivered boxes filled with small parts. The lightweight robot holds the box up to a QR code scanner mounted on the platform, enabling it to identify the individual target position of each box. The autonomously navigating platform then transports the containers through the production shop and automatically delivers them to the workstation. “This just-in-sequence delivery is part of our new logistics concept in our robot production,” explains Sebastian Bodenmüller, Head of Robot Assembly at KUKA Roboter GmbH. Two key aspects ensure maximum cost-effectiveness: the KMR iiwa does not travel any unnecessary distances and it works tirelessly without a break.