Rokoko: human-robot collaboration

Challenge

There is a growing demand for direct human-robot interaction without safety barriers, especially on mixed assembly lines for multiple product variants. However, the automation potential offered by small, cost-effective, lightweight robots is somewhat offset by the risk that they will be deployed without regard for human factors. If decisions are made solely on the basis of technological aspects, the performance of the human-robot system is likely to be suboptimal. Successful implementation thus depends significantly on the extent to which production employees are given a say in the planning and optimization process. This confronts SMEs with many different questions: What type of robot is best suited to which application, and how should it be configured? How much time and effort will it take to set up and program the system? How should the application be designed to ensure that it is accepted by the people who work with it, can be certified by the trade association, and yet still be cost-effective? The aim of the Rokoko research project is to develop and test methods and tools to support the safe use, cost-effective deployment, and general acceptance of robots in collaborative assembly environments. Three industrial users are participating in trials to find the best solution.

Method

The researchers intend to meet this challenge by restructuring assembly-line processes, providing the necessary personnel training, and carrying out a cost-effectiveness analysis. The results will be used to compile appropriate operating guidelines. In addition, the industrial users are developing and testing new robot grippers for the selected applications, and devising concepts to ensure workplace safety. The aim is to obtain certification of the selected assembly applications by the trade association. If this goal is achieved, the system integrators participating in the project will be able to expand their product portfolio to include collaborative assembly environments.

Result

Overall, the research project promises to stimulate the growth of human-robot cooperation in the product assembly industry. The operating guidelines containing practical examples will be helpful to other potential users. The availability of new, vendor-agnostic system integration solutions is an important success factor.