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World's strongest robot is put through its paces at HANNOVER MESSE 2008 Print E-mail
Written by Anand   
Monday, 21 April 2008
Hannover. State-of-the-art robots can handle virtually any task in industrial production. What's more, if you get the cost-benefit ratio right, they are also extremely cost-effective. Come see for yourself at HANNOVER MESSE (the Hannover Fair) 2008, from 21 to 25 April in Hannover, Germany. The FACTORY AUTOMATION fair will showcase a whole range of innovative automation solutions from the world of robotics. The show wouldn't be complete, of course, without KUKA KR 1 000 - also known as "Titan" - the world's strongest robot.

From the Guinness Book of Records to HANNOVER MESSE 2008 - "Titan" takes on complex testing and assembly tasks

* International flagship fair FACTORY AUTOMATION showcases state-of-the-art robot systems for automated production
* Sharing a workplace with intelligent machines - working hand-in-hand with robots
* Industrial robots are on the up - global sales grow by 10 percent

There's no doubt that all eyes will be on "Titan", a robot developed by KUKA, which will be demonstrating its skills for the first time at an automation trade show in Europe at the stand of IBG Automation GmbH of the Goeke Technology Group. The strongest 6-axis industrial robot in the world - which has already secured a place in the Guinness Book of Records - will be flexing its muscles in Hall 17. During the demonstration, "Titan" will pick up a vehicle body and - teaming up with another robot and a high-precision camera system from ISRA VISION AG - will perform a series of complex testing and assembly procedures. Thanks to its enormous power, the ability to lift up to a ton in weight, and a maximum reach of around 4,000 mm, "Titan" takes robot technology to a whole new level, opening up a wide array of possibilities that are too much to handle for conventional articulated robots.

Robots don't take away jobs; they do the heavy work

The fear that robots will destroy the labor market is just as unfounded as many of the other prejudices aimed at these steel employees. If we take a look at the performance of the latest robot developments, we see that robots fulfill similar functions to those of power stations, cars or computers - they don't take away jobs, but help make them easier.

In our high-tech age, robots can relieve us of extremely tough manual work or high-precision tasks. They can also help with jobs that are dangerous or pose a risk to health. It is precisely because robots can do what humans can't - or can only do by putting our health on the line - that they open up new areas of application, which in turn creates jobs. Consequently, we humans can concentrate on tasks that robots are (as yet) unable to do.

For example, robots are excellent painters, a skill that comes in very handy in the automobile industry. They work with solvents in production facilities that humans could only handle with special equipment. Industrial robots aren't just good at painting; they can also transport, stack, convey, load, unload, pack and sort, as demonstrated so impressively by the Foodpicker-Cell from Fanuc at HANNOVER MESSE 2008. This robot shows how it can handle a range of tasks for the food industry - without snacking on the job!

Industrial robots are also typically used in assembly processes. Virtually all tasks in the field of industrial production can be automated with robots. Robots usually consist of a manipulator for control purposes, and a tool known as an effector, or gripper. Depending on how they are equipped, assembly robots - usually equipped with articulated arms and several rotary axes - can screw or weld workpieces. Visitors to HANNOVER MESSE 2008 will have ample opportunity to see these fascinating robots in action and witness the amazing dynamic properties of their nimble steel arms.  Demonstrating brute strength coupled with unbelievably delicate movements, the robots will process a wide range of products right in front of the visitors.

Robots also check the finished product

Humans still come off second best when it comes to putting the finishing touches to a workpiece. Robots can even check the production results themselves, as long as they have been programmed correctly beforehand - by a human, of course. Robots are able to perform more thorough checks than engineers, ensuring that specific dimensions are met and putting the workpieces through their paces, using their full force if necessary.

The fact that robots are not yet used to their full potential in European industry is due no doubt to the prejudices mentioned above. It is quite a different story in Japan, the official Partner Country of HANNOVER MESSE 2008, where robots are already playing a key role in industry. Japan takes full advantage of the high productivity of robots, so it is hardly surprising that many of the innovations in the field of robotics at HANNOVER MESSE 2008 come from Japan. The Japanese have no reservations about working with robots.

According to estimates from the Statistical Department of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), global sales of industrial robots in 2007 climbed by a good ten percent compared to 2006. While robot sales in Japan continued to rise, demand was also up in Europe, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, Germany and Italy. Growth was also strong in North America, China, India, the ASEAN States, and South America.

Despite the upward trend in the European robotic industry, Japan still remains the biggest global exporter of robot technology. According to the Japanese Robot Association JARA, the strengths of the some 130 Japanese manufacturers lie in the areas of industrial robots, construction and civil engineering robots, and service robots.

Working hand-in-hand with robots

No one needs to be scared of their new steel colleagues. Neuronics AG in Zurich, Switzerland, has even designed an industrial robot that can work hand-in-hand with humans. Thanks to integrated sensor technology, the robot's artificial intelligence is aware of its surroundings and can react accordingly.

"Katana" is designed for use in areas where conventional industrial robots are unsuitable due to their size or the danger they pose to their human colleagues. Visitors to HANNOVER MESSE 2008 will be able to see these highly considerate helpers in action! "For a small company like Neuronics, HANNOVER MESSE is the ideal platform for showcasing our humanoid robot "Katana" to an international audience," explains Dr. Hansruedi Früh, founder of Neuronics AG.

Katana's safety has been confirmed by an official EU-compliant risk analysis, which is why it does not have to work behind protective barriers. It is certified for robot/human interaction and surprisingly easy to operate via a teach-in procedure - a human shows "Katana" what to do and the robot mimics the person.

The Robotics Academy at HANNOVER MESSE 2008 is the perfect opportunity for learning how to work with robots like "Katana". For example, the training will introduce participants to all aspects of robot handling, which should be of particular interest to SMEs.

Clever robots learn how to adapt

Robots that can mimic human movements are also a successful line of business for FerRobotics Compliant Robot Technology GmbH in Linz, Austria. The company will be showcasing the world's first "adaptive" robot - "ROMO" - at HANNOVER MESSE 2008. Show/do programming, which dispenses with the need for traditional programming procedures, helps "ROMO" learn new processes in next to no time. What really sets this technology apart is the fact that, while conventional robots had to have their strength levels programmed in advance, "ROMO" can adapt its capabilities to suit the requirements of a specific task.

"Our robot is unique in the sense that it can adapt its strength levels to suit the activity in hand," confirms Dr. Paolo Ferrara from FerRobotics. His partner and fellow board member of FerRobotics Compliant Robot Technology GmbH. Dr. Ronald Naderer, describes the areas of application most suitable for "ROMO": "Our innovative and easy-to-use robot "ROMO" is geared primarily towards the needs of small- and medium-sized production companies in high-wage countries and helps improve their competitiveness."

As "ROMO" is sensitive to pressure and contact, power-reduced models like "Katana" can readily be used directly alongside humans. Dr. Naderer is confident that Hannover is the ideal showcase for an industrial robot as sociable as "ROMO": "HANNOVER MESSE presents us with an excellent opportunity to put the spotlight on our innovative technology."

Play inspires designers and their robots alike

Robots are quite happy to spend their spare time free from the company of humankind. When they're not taking part in sporting activities, like the soccer robots at the RoboCup at HANNOVER MESSE, they like to train their grips. However, even though it might look like they're just playing, all their activities have a serious purpose. Games help robots develop. It's not just children that learn through playing - robots do, too, or more precisely, the people that design them.

For example, visitors to HANNOVER MESSE 2008 will have the chance to watch two robots from the FS03N series of Kawasaki Robotics GmbH try to solve a Rubik's Cube. The FD50N will also be on display - a robot that rounds off Kawasaki's palletizer portfolio. But, of course, visitors to HANNOVER MESSE will be most interested in finding out whether the two FS03N-series robots will succeed in solving the Rubik's Cube. Without giving too much away, you can be sure that the robots have the right equipment for the job. Their precision grip, combined with a 2D vision system, virtually guarantees success. And, of course, two heads are better than one!

"The camera detects the current status of the Cube, enabling the robot's program to calculate all the steps required to solve the puzzle," explains Carsten Stumpf, Marketing Manager of Kawasaki Robotics GmbH. Kawasaki's somewhat tongue-in-cheek application demonstrates the amazing innovation potential of Japanese robot manufacturers. If you've got it, flaunt it. And if you've got a top-rate platform on which to do it, so much the better! Carsten Stumpf sums it up nicely: "The high profile of the HANNOVER MESSE presents exhibitors with a unique opportunity. It allows them to showcase their latest trends and products to visitors from a great variety of industries. Kawasaki Robotics GmbH is, of course, delighted to make the most of this successful platform."

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