Intelligent and safe automation of assembly processes

Press release July 2015 /

At this year’s Motek, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) is presenting a new assembly automation process that makes industrial robots significantly easier and faster to program, as well as a collaborative and safe assembly workstation for riveting applications.

© Fraunhofer IPA, Rainer Bez
The new method for programming industrial robots makes it possible for the first time for the assembly of custom-made components, e.g. for switch cabinets, to be cost-effectively automated.

The conventionally required programming of a robot system for assembly tasks is highly complex. The same is true of positioning the system in order to save the specific workpiece coordinates. Not least for those reasons, many assembly tasks continue to be executed manually, especially in the case of small production runs or custom-made components.

Robot system works out the solution for itself

Now used for the first time for industrial processes, a method from the field of robotics research makes it possible for assembly tasks to be automated more efficiently than before. For this purpose, the programmer first models the process and workpiece/process parameters, such as the workpiece dimensions, in a general form so that the assembly task is available as a sequence of process modules. Next, the programmer assigns variant-specific values. Based on these values and using current sensor data of the relevant workpiece, the system can execute the process modules as a sequence of tasks, similarly to an easy-to-follow work plan. End users benefit from the fact that, once modelled, tasks can be transferred to other systems. The need to program task variants as well as the setup effort for small production runs are extensively eliminated. Together with the experts from Fraunhofer IPA, system integrators can automate challenging assembly tasks more easily, faster and at lower cost than before.

Combination of human and machine capabilities

Fraunhofer IPA is also presenting a workstation for joining processes, such as riveting, at which a human can manually execute difficult tasks while a robot system takes care of repetitive, strenuous tasks. The system is integrated into a mobile tool cart and can be docked with the manual workstation when required. This allows the assembly tasks to be optimally shared according to ergonomic and economic criteria.