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FourByThree proposes the development of a new generation of modular industrial robotic solutions that are suitable for efficient task execution in collaboration with humans in a safe way and are easy to use and program by the factory workers. Learn more


FourByThree collaborative robot almost ready

After the three initial prototypes, the first FourByThree robotic arm that will be used in the development of one of the four industrial cases is ready for deployment. In the coming weeks, the additional three will be available too.

The arm has been mounted in ZEMA and it is now at DFKI for final tuning. The robot will then be sent to Eibar where there will be an Integration Camp at IK4-TEKNIKER and will finally be implemented in the ALFA pilot.

In this pilot study all modular components (both hardware and software) will be used to create two different applications: collaborative part assembly and deburring. More information on implementation will be published soon.

The manufacturability problems of service robot designs

Service robots are having enormous variability with their tasks. One thing is common with all of them: they are present in the vicinity and interact with humans. This presence and co-operation capability dictates the design of the robot arm, which is very different compared to the industrial robot designs.

The robot arm should be very light-weight so that inertia while moving will be minimized and the possible impact in case of collision is not harmful. Contradictory to this, the joint links should be as stiff as possible to meet the precision needs of the movements. If the robot arm touches humans, that should be detected by sensors. The possibility of having a configuration in the robot arm so that the arm could lock or even crush a human limb or garment with the specific joint configuration (normally between links 3 and 4) should be prevented by hardware design or at least by software limitations. The robot’s physical design should have no sharp edges in every joint. All joint corners are to be designed with smooth radiuses. All power and signal cables and tubes must be covered inside the arm so that no-one can be stuck to the cable. When making the robot assembly operations, the fixing elements should also be within the covers for the same reason.

These peculiar and contradictory design limitations, together with low hardware cost targets, have resulted in service robot designs looking quite similar. The link configurations are connected through round tubes, all control PCBs and wiring covered inside the joints, motors covered and almost nothing extending from the robot body. The covers are made of plastics and reinforced fibers, to match the light-weight goal.

Nowadays service robots are designed to be quite modular, so they can fit in different work environments. This is why the links also have a modular design. The joint torque and tube length can vary significantly. The configuration can be simulated easily with OSRF’s Gazebo simulation package, which gives the right robot arm configuration for the targeted application very easily. The software, as well as the sensor connections, can also be modular.

The links are at their simplest round tubes, to be most cost effective and not that easy to be gripped. The covers of the joints are of double curved complex shapes. They will most naturally be manufactured by 3D printing. This technology will combine light weight, seat for electronics, cover of the motor, and possibly also a fixing method.

If we look at the statistics regarding the areas where quality problems may occur, the electrical connectors are the most vulnerable in the long run. That is the reason why cables and pneumatic tubes are as long as possible and extra connectors are avoided. This brings in the feeding problem of flexible cables and pneumatic tubes inside the tubular links of the robot arm. The cables should also have extra length to match the needs of the moving robot arm. That extra length must also be handled in a predetermined form, and that is why the cables are twisted. This hassle with cable protrusion is the most complicated and common assemblability problem in service robotics. You want to avoid extra connectors and make the cables as long as possible, but inside the tubes the flexibility of the cables makes the job rather difficult. Also, at the joints the cables must be positioned in a fixed position.

Round tubes have a significant disadvantage. The round shape does not position the joints automatically and accurately to the joints on rotational axis. This needs extra attention and care. Either there must be sharp position marks or some manufactured position seats in the parts. The most difficult procedure is a calibration measurement to have the links aligned accurately.

The design of the final cover fixing elements is the second most common problem. If you apply standard fixing elements, as screws or nuts, their heads will easily pop up from the surface. Those extra features should be avoided so that the uppermost surface is flat and smooth. They are normally covered by a separate cover plate, or there is some kind of assembly construction without any fixing elements. One of this kind is the locking bayonet, being its negative feature a quite difficult manufacturing process.

Car designs nowadays look all the same when competition is extremely harsh. The same seems to be the case for service robotics hardware. The hardware corresponds mainly to the price level, although the real differences are realized by software.


Baya V. and Wood L.: PWC technology forcast, Issue 2, 2015: Future of robots.

Lempiäinen J. et alli: “Integration of Design and Assembly using Augmented reality”, in the book Micro Assembly Technologies and Applications, Springer 2008.

This guest post has been contributed by Dr. Juhani Lempiäinen, Managing Director and CEO of Deltatron Ltd. (Finland). 

Workshop on collaborative robotics with industrial companies

IK4-TEKNIKER hosted a workshop on collaborative robotics for industrial settings on March 9. The workshop received a very positive answer from local companies, and it was fully booked in advance.

Apart from FourByThree and some other European projects on collaborative robotics, three companies were present in the workshop: Universal Robots, Sick and Schunk. The companies brought different demonstrators, which attracted much atention.

industry workshop 1 industry workshop 2

During the workshop, a questionnaire was used to gather participants’ views on collaborative robotics. These are some of the most relevant results regarding FourByThree. A total of 51 answers were gathered, among which 15 respondents were already using cobots in their companies.

  • 80% thought it is interesting or very interesting to be able to create a robot that matches the specific requirements of an application using a kit (modularity).
  • 86% thought it is interesting or very interesting to have a robot that perceives its environment and automatically adapts to changes.
  • 87% thought it is interesting or very interesting to be able to use the robot using the hands (hand-guiding mode).
  • 89% thought it is interesting or very interesting to have a robot that uses a universal programming language.

Among the respondents that were already using cobots:

  • 77% considered risk analysis was more difficult than that of a normal cell.
  • Only 28% thought workers’ acceptance had been a difficulty.

Technology watch

Eight Research Trends in Collaborative Robotics

Source: Robotiq

What’s the future for collaborative robotics? We look at eight trends which will shape the next decade of robotics research.

The US Robotics Roadmap — written by universities in the USA — is a report which plots the present and future of robotics. It discusses the breadth of the industry, from health-care to manufacturing. A large part of it looks at future research trends.

The most recent version of the Roadmap was published in November 2016. In a previous article, we discussed some of the emerging trends in this new Roadmap which have been added since the 2009 version.
Read more

UR Partners Nissan to Enhance Manufacturing Productivity through Cobots

Source: The Tech Revolutionist

Universal Robots Partners Nissan Motor Company to Enhance Manufacturing Productivity through Collaborative Robots

Nissan Motor Company has simplified processes, reduced relief worker costs and stabilised production output through deployment of Universal Robots’ UR10 cobots

Singapore, 6 April 2017 –

Universal Robots, the leading collaborative robotics company, has announced that Nissan Motor Company has successfully deployed Universal Robots’ UR10 robot arms at its Yokohama factory; joining other global automotive manufacturers including BMW and Volkswagen who are using Universal Robots’ collaborative robots (cobots) to automate their processes. Through the deployment of Universal Robots’ cobots, Nissan has enhanced its production processes, resulting in a higher level of output and stability as well as time and cost efficiencies. Nissan’s aging workforce also enjoy a reduced workload, and were redeployed to less strenuous tasks.

Shermine Gotfredsen, General Manager, SEA and Oceania, said, “We are excited to be working with Nissan in their automation journey. The global automotive industry plays a key role in driving the adoption of collaborative robots (cobots) to produce better manufacturing output, and this is critical for industry players to stay competitive. Universal Robots is at the forefront of this trend; our cobots effectively support process automation, resulting in improved safety standards and less strain on human employees. This can be applied not only in the automotive industry, but also in the manufacturing of electronics and electrical, pharma and chemistry, and food and agriculture.”

Cobots are an offshoot of traditional industrial robots. They are lightweight and mobile in terms of deployment, and are flexible enough to be modified for different applications. The automotive industry uses cobots in a wide variety of processes including handling, assembling, packaging, palletizing, labelling, painting, quality control and machine tending. The market value for collaborative industrial robots in the automotive industry was US$23.56 million in 2015 and is projected to reach US$469.82 million by 2021, at a CAGR of 64.67% between 2015 and 2021.

Rise of Collaborative Industrial Robots in Southeast Asia’s Automotive Industry

The automotive industry in SEA is poised for great growth with large markets experiencing important sales growth. As a key manufacturing hub producing for Asia and the world, SEA’s automotive sector has grown at 11% CAGR between 2010 and 2015[1]. The upcoming implementation of Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free-Trade Area is expected to lower import and export taxes in the region, further driving demand for cost-effective regionally manufactured vehicles.

UR10 Robot Arms at Nissan Motor Company

Nissan Motor Company needed to streamline its production process at its large-scale Yokohama plant. The company also needed to manage labour costs with an aging workforce and the associated loss of vital skills.

Mr Nakamura, Expert Headman for the plant’s Engine Section, said: “We needed a robot large enough to carry hefty intake manifold components, weighing up to 6kgs. On comparison with other companies’ robots, we selected the UR10 due to its cost advantages for a single robot, as well as its weight capacity. In the process of installing the intake manifolds, only the UR10 robot arm had the payload of 10kg among the other products we considered.”

Universal Robots’ cobots are collaborative industrial robot arms that can automate processes and tasks that weigh up to 10 kg, and require precision and reliability. With a reach radius of up to 1300mm, the cobots are designed to be more effective at tasks across a larger area, and can save time on production lines where distance can be a factor. Universal Robots’ cobots are easy to program and set up. They are designed to work alongside humans, as a tool, to help simplify and speed up tasks that might be complicated, or require greater physical strength.

After deliberating on the range of safety and features required, Nissan decided on using the UR10 robot arms which were easily installed, programmed and operational within a week. The deployment of UR10 robot arms at Nissan reduced production time and quality as well as allowed employees to be relieved of monotonous tasks, allowing them to obtain valuable line experience elsewhere.

Subsection Chief of Engine Section Mr Onishi said: “We are able to quickly respond to potential production time overruns as we can easily move the UR10 to work on any process in the plant where the issue has been identified. We plan to further the use of cobots by integrating the strong on-site and engineering capabilities, which will increase our level of cobots deployment going forward.”

For more details on how Nissan Motor Company is using UR10 robots please click here.

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