Robotnik eases the implementation of collaborative robots in SMEs

  • Robotic Automation: Deliveries for small logistics.
  • Robotic automation and collaborative robots are no longer only available to large companies.

Robotnik is involved in many projects that give SMEs the possibility to implement autonomous mobile robots and become part of Industry 4.0.

One of these projects is the RB-LOG: Robotic Logistics, which has revolved around developing a new cost-effective indoor robotic transport solution that is especially suitable for deliveries for small residences, hotels, supermarkets, robotic in warehouses, and other small semi-structured buildings and will automate the transport process and free manpower for the tasks that require it.

After these years of experience in the sector, we have worked with small industry customers who were looking for new solutions to improve their products and make tasks more rentable, and we have seen how the introduction of collaborative robots, really gave a 360º turn to the SME.

Robotic Automation, should we choose between robots or employees?

There is a certain perception in small and midsize companies that cobots and collaborative mobile robotics, in general, threaten the jobs of employees. The reality is quite different: collaborative robotics has come to guarantee the future of the company by making it cost-effective, thus making it possible for those jobs to be maintained.

As we read in an article by the IFR (International Federation of Robotics):

‘Manufacturers and logistics providers are under increasing pressure to produce and ship smaller, customized orders in short timeframes. Many are automating the production process to be able to respond more efficiently to new orders. Some are also restructuring production and logistics, moving from linear production and logistics lines to a series of standard production cells which can be rapidly reconfigured to the task at hand.’

‘Small and mid-sized manufacturers (SMEs) form the backbone of most manufacturing economies, but many have been slow to automate. A number of developments are changing this. First, robots are now easier to program and re-task, throught intuitive interfaces and demonstration. Second, the new generation of collaborative robots can easily be integrated into existing production processes alongside workers – versus replanning the whole production line for automation’. 

At the end of the H2020 project, in which Robotnik has participated as coordinators, we can draw conclusions and determine whether it has met the initial objectives.

RG-LOG: autonomous logistics transport 

Although it is true that automated transport solutions already existed for large structured environments, they did not exist for smaller buildings or semi-structured environments. The goal was to develop a new, low-cost indoor robotic conveyor solution that would be particularly suitable for small residences, shops, hotels, supermarkets and warehouses where the material handling process could be automated, freeing up employee time for more value-added tasks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE26I4c5BL8

In other words: for autonomous inland logistics transport in small buildings in semi-structured human environments.

To this purpose, Robotnik has collaborated with UBITECH and SingularLogic Cy to develop RB-LOG, a modular and adaptable hardware and software system, composed of autonomous transport robots that will be coordinated by an intuitive and flexible Fleet Management System (FMS).

The main objective of the RB-LOG project was to develop a fleet of low-cost robots governed by a Fleet Management System (FMS) and capable of performing autonomous logistic transport tasks inside small buildings or semi-structured environments.

RB-LOG pilot tests

Robotnik shows you how we have tested the system progressively, from the beginning of the project until its completion. The following pilot tests were carried out, in 3 different phases:

  • Pilot Phase 1: The necessary transports, charging/discharging points, lifts, battery charging station position, etc. were defined. A solution study was carried out and the number of charging/uncharging stations and positions and expected functionality of the system was determined. A first robot was installed and started to perform the trolley transport functions. The system was interfaced with the main lift and adapted for Phase II where a second robot was to be installed as well as the distributed periphery for the loading/unloading stations.
  • Pilot Phase 2: The second robot was installed as well as the trolley charging points and the battery charging station. Communication with the main lift was completed. Defined the loading/unloading bays for one basement floor. Testing of loading/unloading functionality, as well as lift entry/exit, was carried out.
  • Pilot Phase 3: It was planned to be developed between December 2019 and April 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ave Maria Foundation remained closed, allowing occasionally and with restrictions the entry of family members. In these circumstances, we had to change plans. Finally opted to replicate a trolley transport environment with two robots in Robotnik's facilities.

Conclusions of the project

  • Robotnik has worked in a coordinated way and we can conclude that the project was developed according to the initial schedule. All the project objectives were met and the planned tasks were executed 100%.
  • RB-LOG yields interesting results in terms of logistics for SMEs: We have achieved one of the most important objectives of the project: to have an advanced fleet management system whose installation and configuration is intuitive and at a reasonable cost.
  • This FMS is already being implemented in industrial applications performed by Robotnik.
  • A new robot lift system has been developed and has become a successful product that Robotnik sells and installs with the RB-1 BASE model robots.
  • Robotnik has found that many companies have solved the logistics of large loads but have shortcomings in the transport of small loads for which small and versatile robots such as the RB-1 BASE are needed.

Its 10 hours of autonomy, 50kg load, or lifting unit are some of the advantages of this model that have been successfully tested in the project.


robots in logistics

RB-VOGUI, a collaborative robot for outdoor transport in industry

The Eurecat technology center and Robotnik Automation have developed the RB-VOGUI, a highly modular, autonomous and collaborative land robot designed for the autonomous transport of materials in the industrial and construction sectors, with a design that provides an advanced human-robot collaboration system.

As part of the European COBOLLEAGUE project, the robot is focused on autonomous navigation in outdoor industrial environments, which are characterized by uneven terrain and a wide variety of static and dynamic obstacles.

It is a highly mobile, all-terrain modular mobile base suitable for transporting loads of up to 200 kg.  Its design includes features that enable people tracking, gesture detection and voice-based control.

RB-VOGUI is able to generate a map of its environment and to locate and navigate it safely, being able to perform inter-plant transport tasks or last-mile transport tasks This map is also capable to identify all obstacles as well as possible cliffs and holes where the robot can fall through or collect data in construction environments that can then be used in conjunction with the building information modelling system BIM (Building Information Modeling).

Utility of mobile robotics in industry

According to Roberto Guzman, CEO of Robotnik, "the COBOLLEAGUE project demonstrates, once again, the utility of mobile robotics for applications in which repetitive tasks are performed, in this case, automating outdoor transportation in industry and construction. Our experience of almost 20 years in service robotics allows us to adapt our general purpose robots to different verticals, being able to provide mobile solutions in a wide variety of applications and sectors".   

In the words of the director of the Eurecat Robotics and Automation Unit, Daniel Serrano, "after more than a decade of R&D in location and autonomous navigation, in this project we have managed to develop a 3D location and mapping that takes advantage of the building model extracted directly from BIM. This project demonstrates the potential of the application of service robots in the construction sector, with many possibilities for the future".

Robotnik in Cobolleague project

Within the Cobolleague project, Robotnik has been responsible for the provision of the mechatronic solution and the development of the conceptual design, safety and human factors, as well as business case validation and industrial engagement. A new kinematic configuration has been developed to give the RB-VOGUI robot chassis greater mobility and allows it to perform autonomous transport tasks in urban environments or in unstructured environments with difficult terrain. A 3D laser localization and navigation system has been developed that has proven to work robustly, both indoors and outdoors.

mobile robot

Eurecat in Cobolleague project

For its part, Eurecat has been responsible for developing a BIM (Building Information Model) based interface that processes 3D building information, adding structural data to a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) system used by a mobile robot. Thus, the robot can access a 3D map of the reference model and determine its own location in the construction environment, saving time and performing autonomous navigation to a destination, without first exploring the map. 

Futhermore, Eurecat's implementation allows tracking the status of construction and flagging updates to the reference model, a relevant feature for the construction industry. Eurecat also provides the integration of a multimodal worker-robot interface, so that the robot follows the workers in complete safety. 

COBOLLEAGUE has been supported by the ESMERA (European SMEs Robotics Applications) project, in its call for robotic solutions to industrial challenges. ESMERA is a consortium formed by four technology centers (the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Automation Systems of the University of Patras; the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives; and the Tekniker Foundation and Technische Universität München), and three industrial partners (Blue Ocean Robotics; COMAU; and R.U. Robots).

Video demostration here.


Industry 4.0

Mobile Robots in Industry 4.0: automation & flexibility

Industry 4.0, also known as Connected Industry, is the industry stage that has consolidated the use of connectivity and collaborative robotics in industrial processes, creating workspaces in which humans and robots can work safely together and share information to optimize processes, thus resulting in better decision-making.

The use of mobile robots and mobile manipulators creates the flexible and autonomous industrial automation needed to create Smart Factories, where the greatest asset is the exchange of information made possible by the integration of the latest intelligent technologies into robotics, such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, or Big Data.

This gives rise to the possibility of using intelligent, autonomous, and collaborative mobile robots which allow the creation of more efficient, optimal industrial processes with better use of resources, resulting in all-around greater productivity.

Industry 4.0 and the Age of Mobile Robotics

The combination of ICT and smart technologies has ushered in an era of mobile robotics with characteristics and features that widen its industrial applications and its capacity to process data, perform actions, and adapt to different working environments.

Thanks to R&D processes such as those developed by Robotnik, collaborative mobile robotics can take charge of the execution of repetitive processes, adapting the robots’ movements to the information they receive, process and share, thanks to the latest state-of-the-art software and sensors.

This has brought about very significant changes, for example, in the application of mobile robotics for pick & place logistics tasks or for general industrial applications as part feeding, metrology, quality control, operations on large parts or packaging, cleaning, polishing, screwing or drilling,  where the repeatability and uniformity of actions are key to saving costs and streamlining processes.

What features enable collaborative mobile robotics to create intelligent factories?

Intelligent automation

This means that a mobile robot is not only capable of performing a task without human intervention, but that it is also capable of self-management and decision making, due to its ability to access, generate, and process information

In this way, the mobile robot doesn’t only take on the execution of repetitive or dangerous processes; it can also decide to change its route or adapt its omnidirectional movements at any given moment, thanks to the simulations it can recreate and the predictive models it generates with the data it collects in real time.

Connectivity

This is what makes a machine-to-machine (M2M) communication possible: the creation of decentralized systems and the possibility for robots to interact with humans through integrated interfaces that simplify the collaborative work.

This also allows collaboration with other components that can be integrated into mobile platforms, such as artificial vision systems or robotic arms.

Flexibility

This is the adaptability that mobile robots and mobile manipulators have at their disposal, to modify their way of working, according to the demands of the production line, or the changes in the working environment.

Executing different tasks, adapting their speed, creating alternative routes, or changing sections in real time are all well within the capabilities of a mobile robot with intelligent navigation.

Within this ability to adapt, Robotnik has gone one step further with the creation of mobile manipulators that provide mobility and autonomy to the collaborative arms, with a simple plug and play integration.

Robotnik’s contributions to the evolution of Industry 4.0 

Robotnik is an expert in the design, manufacture, and marketing of mobile robots and mobile manipulators, with all the necessary features to enable any industry to adapt them to its own needs.

Their close collaboration with different types of industries has made it possible for Robotnik to innovate and create new tailor-made solutions to widen and enhance the industrial applications of mobile robots.

  • This has led to the development of an own Fleet Management System (FMS), which coordinates the operation of several robots and mobile manipulators working in the same area, sharing resources and creating coordinated flow control to save resources and create more efficient processes.
  • The integration of the latest intelligent technologies has enabled the provision of mobile robots with new functionalities that can improve collaborative work. Some cases in point are voice control, people tracking, or autonomous coupling to other machines.
  • The development of an Advanced user interface (HMI) allows to generate maps and define localization (waypoints) and routes in a simple and interactive way.  It allows the client/user to control the operations of mapping, localization and navigation directly from any device connected to the robot network.
  • And, finally, it has enabled the creation of mobile manipulators compatible with different automated components that expand their industrial applications. Here we have the innovative RB-KAIROS+ Mobile Robot, a robotic platform with omnidirectional kinematics equipped for the integration of the Universal Robots e-Series arm. This allows unlimited expansion of the cobot workspace, because the collaborative mobile manipulator can work in different locations.  In this sense, it enables a wide range of new applications and it is a great complement for current URe arm users.

It is this continuous process of research and development that has enabled robotics to begin taking on new tasks in different fields and sectors. 


Robotnik and the Spanish technologies in the fight against COVID-19

‘El Mundo’ newspaper has just published an article about the different technologies developed by Spanish companies in the fight against COVID-19. Among them are Robotnik's mobile robots that, among other things, help to maintain the much-needed safety distance between healthcare personnel and patients themselves. These are collaborative mobile robots that transport food or medicines or have implemented modules to telemedicine or disinfection. The possibilities are vast.

If you want more information, see the full article here.


robots in healthcare industry

The importance of collaborative robotics in the fight against COVID-19

Robotics has emerged as one of the technologies that is most contributing to the fight against COVID-19, providing numerous solutions to the needs that the pandemic has raised. In this way, also, it has contributed to revitalizing the economy, which has been severely reduced by the health situation we are experiencing worldwide. In fact, it has brought to light the importance of robotics and the prominent role they play at the moment, as it is already happening in the current industry 4.0 and other technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, blockchain or cybersecurity, among others. There are numerous applications in which collaborative robotics is already present, something that had to be reflected in these times of crisis.

Why is robotics key right now?

In the fight against the virus, one of the measures that has been shown to work to prevent contagion is to maintain a safe distance between people. And here collaborative robotics has a lot to say.

Specifically, mobile robots working in hospital can perform autonomous tasks such as:

  • Transportation of food.
  • Transportation  of medicine
  • Transportation of  laundry supplies.
  • Disinfection tasks.
  • Telemedicine.

In this way, the physical relationship between health personnel as well as patients and staff in general who transit through the hospital is avoided. All these tasks are the usual ones when we talk about collaborative mobile robotics (this last concept, collaborative means that robots, thanks to the integrated sensorization, can work safely in environments with humans).

Already in 2008, Robotnik noticed the importance of robotics and launched its AGVS robots in several hospitals, which were used precisely to autonomously transport different goods through the hospital. This made it possible to automate a repetitive and tedious activity while preventing it from being carried out by a person, who could dedicate his time to carrying out tasks of greater added value.

Current projects from Robotnik

The same idea of ​​maintaining the safety distance between people is at the base of the RADERPAC project (Rapid Deployment Robot for Pandemic Crises) that Robotnik is currently developing and is funded by the Generalitat Valenciana (Spain). In consists of the development of a modular robot designed to work in hospitals allowing the assembly of a module for disinfection and fumigation (something fundamental in the fight against COVID-19). This same mobile robot will serve as the basis for other health purposes such as telemedicine, telepresence or the transport of loads previously mentioned.

Robotnik has extensive experience in the development and supply of this type of robot, the use of which goes beyond the healthcare environment, also being used in areas of nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological contamination. This technology can be applied almost immediately for many applications, using robots as the first separation barrier against the virus and thus helping to protect the workforce and the patients themselves, which showcases the importance of robotics in this sector.

Other projects Robotnik is currently working on is ENDORSE, which is part of the H2020 program of the European Union. This R&D project is based on developing logistics and diagnosis applications for hospitals. In it, different developments will be carried out in order to automate various tasks within a hospital, from the distribution of medicines and materials to the monitoring of the health status of patients. All of them aimed at reducing contact between people.

There are many applications that are being carried out and that highlight the importance of robotics at the present time. To those already mentioned, the following can be added:

  • Collaborative robotic arms (cobots) as a working tool for physical therapists. These would serve to interact with the patient without having to physically touch him.
  • Robots for the automatic performance of COVID-19 tests.
  • Robots for processing these tests quickly and efficiently. Something that, for example, the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is working on.
  • Robots to manufacture masks. In Spain, thanks to the help from some large companies, it has been possible to increase the number of masks that healthcare personnel especially needed.
  • Telepresence robots. Based on our Summit-XL Steel, we found a robot that uses the latest advances in artificial intelligence, digital signage, and video analysis and that performs tasks such as analysing the number of visitors, age, and gender of them.

 

In the field of telepresence there are striking proposals that highlight, once again, the importance of robotics. This is the case of quadruped robots that, in principle, were designed for rescue and transport tasks and have ended up serving as a medical tool to check the condition of patients without the need for a physical presence by the doctor, only using the tablet that incorporates the robot.

This same robot has been used in Singapore to, using loudspeakers, send messages to the population reminding them of the importance of staying at least 2 meters away.

The pandemic that we are currently experiencing and that affects everyone, has forced to redouble efforts in all areas. Robotics could not be left out of it. On May 4, the European Commission launched the Coronavirus Global Response initiative and mobilized a total of € 1.4 billion to fight the virus. On May 20, it mobilized another 122 million euros to support a series of R&D actions to combat COVID-19. This framework of actions highlights the importance of robotics, which will continue in force once we move forward and place ourselves in the future that COVID-19 leaves us.

If you are interested in collaborative mobile robotics, don't forget to subscribe to our blog!


UNO Logistics Organization shares our robotics solutions for the sector

UNO Logistics, the Logistics and Transport Business Organization, dedicates a complete article to us in the analysis of the different industrial solutions of our company for the logistics industry. Robotnik has been carrying robotic mobile robots for different industrial sectors since its origin, with special dedication to the transport of goods and industrial mobile manipulation since 2008, when we started to implement our robots and our Fleet Management System (SGF) in hospitals.

Would you like to read the full article? We leave it here.


Robotnik puts its technology at the service of the COVID-19 health crisis

In the current world crisis caused by COVID-19, and foreseeably in other future ones with similar characteristics that we are facing, health and non-health personnel are exposed to direct contact with infected patients. The COVID-19 virus has an infection capacity more than 3 times greater than the 1918 Spanish flu. Despite security measures, only in Spain more than 13% of health personnel have been infected in this first wave of the pandemic.

In this context, the use of robotic systems reduces the contact of these personnel with patients or, also, non-health personnel, keeping them away from risk areas to carry out their services. Robots can help automate many of the tasks that are performed on a daily basis in a hospital: cleaning, disinfection, communication with the patient, transport of food, transport of patients, telemedicine (temperature measurements, blood pressure, oximetry, etc. ...) as well as many others, which significantly reduces the risk of all personnel.

Robotnik has extensive experience in the development and supply of logistics robots, as well as modular robots with the ability to mount different "loads" or modules that can be used in environments with nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological contamination. This technology can be applied almost immediately for many of the applications already specified, using robots as the first separation barrier against viruses and thus helping to protect workforce.

In the specific case of the telemedicine module, Robotnik is participating in the European project ENDORSE. This project aims to validate the integration of an electronic diagnostic module (equipped with non-invasive sensors) in a mobile robot base from Robotnik, so that it can serve as a direct interface to obtain the patient's status remotely.

The fight against COVID-19 is a global fight and helping to combat this pandemic must be a joint commitment of all the social agents, who have to make their contribution in the different areas to the best of their ability.


ID Logistics bets on for the Collaborative Mobile Robots with Robontik's solutions

The SUMMIT-XL STEEL model works in the facilities of the logistics company facilitating the tasks of the operators.

The objective is the automation of the transport of materials in their processes of picking and preparation of orders in the e-commerce sector. The application includes autonomous transport from the point of collection of items to the preparation and shipping area. In addition, there is a tracking mode in which the Collaborative Mobile Robot (CMR) follows the operator while collecting. Once when it is completed, the robot returns autonomously to the unloading area.

The Collaborative Mobile Robot automates a task that is repetitive and tedious, which ultimately results in an optimization of the work processes and, therefore, a better result. Thanks to the user interface, which is developed by Robotnik, the operator can interact with the robot in a very easy way through a touch screen. SUMMIT-XL STEEL has a robust design that allows it to support loads of up to 250 kg. For industrial applications of freight transport in indoor environments, such as warehouses or factories, Robotnik offers a solution that includes the fleet of robots itself, the Fleet Management System and the user interface (HMI). This enables the final customer to control their collaborative robots in a very easy, fast and effective way.

Robotnik's Collaborative Mobile Robots, which work together with people with full security in work environments, making possible a fast and flexible start-up. Autonomous navigation is used with security lasers, so it is not necessary to install external physical elements (beacons, magnetic tapes, etc.).


What is SWARM Logistics Assistant?

SWARM Logistics Assistant comes up from H2020 CPSwarm project. In it, Robotnik contributes with its knowledge in Cyber Phisical Systems. Robotnik has large experience in ROS, software used by all their robots, furthermore in the simulation software. The project has several mobile platforms from Robotnik, which are working to supporting the workers in tedious tasks in a warehouse.

The robots also make a scanner of the warehouse work space and share this information to updating the data base in real time. Likewise, the robots also collect additional information related to matters such as the ambient temperature, the presence of human beings, the detection of obstacles along the way, etc.

In the following video you can see the feasibility and effectiveness of the project:

 

 


Mobile manipulators for industry: the future is now

Industry 4.0 has opened the way to multiple forms of automation that aim to optimize productivity and improve work processes.

There are many companies, of different sizes, that already have different collaborative robots, that is, those that are designed to share with people a work environment with total security. The mobile manipulators (robot arm onboard a mobile robot) are the next step after the collaborative arms (cobots) and the collaborative mobile robots (CMR).

To fit in an industrial environment, a mobile manipulator must comply with several features:

  • Must be able to work with people safely
  • Must be autonomous
  • Not too expensive in setup time.
  • Easy setup and installation
  • Robustness and cycle time

In the industrial field, autonomous mobile manipulators can perform repetitive or heavy tasks. Among their tasks may be picking up and transporting goods.

Robotnik has been established as a European reference company in mobile service robotics. We provide a reliable solution that integrates robots, localization systemsconfiguration and programming tools (HMI) and Fleet Management System (FMS).

We have large experience in mobile manipulation, being partners of companies like Universal Robots, Schunk, Kinova or Barrett Technology. We have several products as RB-1, XL-GEN or RB-Kairos. The last one,  RB-Kairos integrates a UR5 arm from Universal Robots, one of the most established arms in the industry worldwide. In this sense, RB-Kairos is  suitable for the development of industrial tasks.