PROFACTOR, the Steyr, Austria based corporate group specialized in manufacturing technology, presented an intuitively programmable gripper demonstrator at AUTOMATICA 2010, thus showing the way to the future of robot programming. The demonstrator was developed in part within the scope of the AHUMARI FIT-IT project.
Conventional programming techniques, such as teach-in and off-line programming, are no longer used to control the robot, instead it is programmed intuitively by the machine operator. This technology provides impressive advantages. The intuitive programming technique is simple and time-saving and enables customized products (batch size 1 production), reduces production downtime and drastically cuts the cost of software adaptation.
“Anyone able to use an iPhone can control this robot,” Andreas Pichler, Head of Robotics and Adaptive Systems at PROFACTOR, stated confidently.
The robot’s hardware was developed by FerRobotics, PROFACTOR’s partner of many years. An intelligent 3D object recognition system creates a model of the real situation of the workpieces, which is then transmitted to a touch panel. The robot processes this information, proposing virtual gripping points on the panel. Should these points not be optimal in the operator’s view, he can intervene in the process by simply marking new gripping points on the display. The system learns the new gripping points, storing in a database this knowledge along with the corresponding workpieces. The stored knowledge is subsequently retrieved to solve similar problems during later process execution. The system thus co-learns in operation and is successively capable of solving tasks independently, in this way achieving a greater degree of autonomy.
The industrial application of augmented reality technology used here, developed at the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences under the leadership of Dr. Michael Haller, is becoming increasingly important in robotics. With augmented reality technology, computer-generated virtual objects are superimposed visually on real objects, enabling appropriate responses to situations in real working environments. “For instance, a virtual image of repair procedures could be displayed on data glasses worn by a maintenance technician at work,” Pichler noted, citing another application to explain the technique. Reality is supplemented by an additional level, which is the reason this technology is often referred to as augmented reality.
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