Application of robots for material handling

Companies wishing to move towards automation are still uncertain about the technical details of such industrial implementations, or simply wondering what exactly robotics can do to improve their production processes.

The use of robotic transport platforms is more popular, but there is still a lack of knowledge about mobile handling robots. 

Robots for material handling are a growing trend and Robotnik is one of the pioneers in the development and manufacture of these robots. 

In this article you will find 5 applications of material handling robots that you may not have thought of yet. 

What is a handling robot?

A traditional handling robot is a robotic arm installed and fixed in a specific location in a static way, for example, at a point on an assembly production conveyor to join several parts together. 

Now, handling robots are reaching new horizons thanks to mobility and Collaborative Mobile Manipulation is already a reality. 

A Collaborative Mobile Manipulator or handling robot, is a robotic arm seamlessly integrated into an autonomous mobile robotic platform. So the arm no longer has to be fixed at a single point but the arm can execute one or several handling tasks at as many locations as the company requires. 

Robotnik's experience after 20 years in the industry as a leading company in autonomous mobile handling, shows that there are a large number of tasks that no longer make sense to be performed by operators. These are risky, repetitive and time-consuming tasks that put unnecessary strain on the workers. 

In addition, many of Robotnik's customers are faced with the problem of a lack of skilled labour for these tasks. 

For these reasons, the automation of mechanical and tedious operations for humans is continuously growing.

These are Robotnik's most demanded Collaborative Mobile Manipulators for material handling: 

5 robot applications for material handling

There are as many applications that mobile manipulators are capable of executing as there are end-effectors compatible with the arm: grippers, magnetic grippers, robotic hand grippers and a host of other component options. 

Here is a list of five applications of handling robots that are common in industrial environments that you may not have known about: 

  1. Goods-to-person: This is the term used to describe the tasks of bringing parts or other units of material from a warehouse to the operator in an automated manner. Goods-to-person picking reduces unnecessary operator movements and avoids unproductive times. 
  2. Intralogistics: In production lines, it is common to find missing components required for manufacturing. A handling robot is able to supply each stage of the production line so that operators can continue with the process. 
  3. Handling of hazardous material: the precision and advanced technology of a Mobile Handler robot such as RB-KAIROS+ makes it capable of handling toxic, polluting or noxious material that poses a danger to humans. 
  4. Palletising: loading materials onto a pallet is a mechanical task that requires precision and consistency. It is one of the most automated applications in logistics environments due to the fact that the repeatability rate of a robot handler significantly exceeds that of a human operator. In the case of mobile handlers, the robot can carry out the palletising task at one point in the warehouse and when it is finished, it can move to the location of the next pallet to be loaded or stop, if it has completed its mission. Thus, it is not necessary to bring the pallets to the robotic arm, but the process is reversed: the robot goes autonomously to the pallet. 
  5. Sorting: the development of advanced software is key for the manipulator robot to carry out a sorting application accurately and with no margin for error. In fact, it is one of the tasks that has taken the longest to be automated due to its complexity, but the level of technological development has reached a point that enables and guarantees efficiency. A mobile handling robot can classify different elements following a specific order or pattern, by means of Artificial Intelligence algorithms and other identification, vision and sensorisation systems. 

Sanding, welding, polishing... The list of applications that a mobile handling robot is able to perform is endless. What is the task that your company needs to automate? Robotnik's team knows which Mobile Handling Robot best suits your needs.


What is advanced robotics?

Advanced robotics involves robotic systems capable of taking commands and reacting to them in an intelligent way. For example, a robot that is carrying out a task of transporting material within a warehouse and, upon facing an unexpected obstacle, takes the decision to redefine the optimal route to complete its mission.

In the evolution of advanced robotics, the progress of disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, or cognitive automation, among others, plays a significant role. 

These technologies are increasing the capabilities of mobile robots, which now reach higher levels of intelligence and autonomy.  

After 20 years of experience in the development of advanced robotics, Robotnik reaches new high demand levels by companies and entities looking for intelligent automation of tasks and processes. 

The company, constantly developing robotics R&D, is now seeing how these technologies are transforming the future of manufacturing and driving growth in manufacturing companies and other industries. 

Industrial processes used decades ago cannot keep pace with the current exigent, flexible and global demand. In order to adapt production to the context, these exponential technologies are a definite boost. Many factories are already incorporating advanced robotics for warehouse management. 

Growth of advanced robotics 

Advanced robotics emerged in the 1980s as a term for robots featuring sensorisation and a powerful combination of software and hardware to make intelligent decisions, in contrast to traditional machines. 

These types of robots are not limited to the manufacturing environment or Industry 4.0 - although a large part of sales are oriented towards this sector - but are also useful in different industries: construction, health or safety and rescue, for example. 

 The ability to make decisions autonomously, precision and error reduction or high mobility are some of the characteristics that make the advanced robotics market is moving at high speed, as can be seen in the following table:

Future of advanced robotics

The future of advanced industrial robotics is multi-tasking, collaborative robots, with greater autonomy and increasingly accurate sensing. 

Advanced robotics has not yet reached its high point and there are still challenges to be faced. For example, the gap in the technological training of many of the workers in the manufacturing industry or the high cost that some of these technologies represent. 

Despite the fact that technological development is constant, Robotnik has the capacity to offer innovative robotics while minimising these problems as much as possible. For example, the fact that Robotnik's AMRs already integrate 5G technology means a greater guarantee for the Artificial Intelligence, autonomy and safety of the robot.

Advanced robotics: the road to intelligent automation 

An important part of intelligent automation is robotics capable of incorporating Artificial Intelligence algorithms. Do you know some of the autonomous, collaborative and mobile robots that are  already on the market? 

Here are some examples of advanced robotics from Robotnik: 

Gear factory: The Netherlands company Hankamp Gears BV incorporates robotics to perform pick and place and handling tasks in the production line of metal gears.

Security and rescue sector: Here you can read about robots that, through high sensorization, are able to support security personnel in emergency situations. 

Logistics: Part of the result of the PILOTOS 5G project was two demonstrations in large industrial plants in which Robotnik's mobile robot RB-VOGUI has autonomously and collaboratively carried out logistics tasks in the transport and supply of materials.

 

 

 


How can robots help in a warehouse?

Today's consumer demands ever faster production and delivery times. This means that manufacturers must necessarily speed up their production and logistics processes to remain competitive.

Mobile robotic solutions are already established in transport and logistics with more than 49,500 units (+45%) sold in 2021, according to World Robotics 2022. In addition, it shows a record high of robots installed in factories worldwide, reaching a 31% year-on-year growth rate.

Find out in this article about the different types of warehouse robots, the advantages of a mobile robot in a factory, what aspects to take into account, lists of manufacturers, etc.

Are you considering automating some tasks in your workplace? You have heard about automation by robotics but have doubts about it? Do you already have good experience with a warehouse robot and are you considering expanding your AMR fleet? This reading clarifies many of the most frequently asked questions, but if you still have doubts, our team is ready for any specifics.

TYPES OF ROBOTS FOR A WAREHOUSE

Static, guided, mobile... Automation and robotics in warehouses differ depending on the specific manufacturing needs. In some cases, bulky, static robots are needed to perform tasks automatically and always in the same place.
In other cases, a mobile robot that performs tasks in different locations within the same warehouse is more useful. It is also common to combine static and mobile robotics for workplaces where different tasks are performed at the same time.

These are the 3 main types of warehouse robots:

  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). These are the ones that require the installation of guides, magnets or some kind of markers to move in a predictable way. AGVs are usually in demand for tasks that require little complexity.
  • Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR). They move autonomously and in an unlimited space by means of sensor elements. They are able to avoid obstacles and re-route if necessary.
  • Mobile Manipulators. These are autonomous mobile robots, AMR, which integrate a robotic arm into the platform. So they have the capacity to perform the same tasks as a robotic arm, but in different locations.

WHAT IS A WAREHOUSE ROBOT?

They are robots developed with the necessary software and hardware to automate tasks within a warehouse, support the human team, replace them in cases of repetitive or dangerous tasks, and ultimately, streamline and improve all manufacturing processes.
The vast majority of Robotnik products are robots capable of working in warehouses and factories as they have different sizes, load capacities and technical specifications. Here you can see the warehouse robots and here the mobile warehouse manipulators.

3 TIPS FOR AUTOMATE YOUR WAREHOUSE ON AN INTELLIGENT WAY

  1. Consider multi-purpose robots. One of the main trends in warehouse robotics is to acquire a robot capable of performing multiple tasks, i.e. a multi-purpose robot.
  2. Mobile Manipulation. Robotnik has recently experienced an increase in demand for mobile manipulators in warehouses. One of the most automated tasks in this environment is the transport of goods, but what if you have the option of a single robot to perform both transport and pick and place? Mobile handling is a clear trend for 2022 that will continue to consolidate.
  3. Let yourself be advised by experts. It is usual for an end user to be clear about what the improvement he wants or his goal, but he doesn’t necessarily know what specific robotic solution he needs to achieve that goal. In this sense, Robotnik has 20 years of experience in service robotics.

Amazon's intelligent warehouse automation strategy is definitely working, let's start yours?


robot safety

What is a security robot? What does it do?

Have you ever wondered what is a security robot and what does it do? Come and read.

Since 2002, Robotnik has participated in more than 60 projects, most of them at European level. Currently, about 30 projects of different nature are in progress: some of them with objectives oriented to logistics, others to the health sector or also to the agri-food sector, among others.

This post compiles the ongoing projects involving security robots related to public safety and rescue. 

R&D in Europe

One of Europe's main challenges is to promote research and development within companies, as it is the key to the competitiveness and productivity of each economic sector in the future. Therefore, there are official funding programmes such the Horizon Europe that provide support to this end.

All countries have increased investment in robotics, both at the enterprise level and at the level of governments and institutions.

This increase in investment is due to a number of factors, for example, the enormous development of some of the catalysts of robotics such as 5G or Artificial Intelligence, which provide an ideal framework, with connections and capabilities that did not exist before.

The evolution of these catalyst technologies is key to the autonomy of security robots. 

What is a security robot?

A security robot is the one capable of performing tasks that can help in security missions. Within this, security robots display different capabilities, different levels of autonomy, mobility, sensorisation and intelligence.

Perhaps there is less awareness of research and innovation in this area, but the use of security robots is becoming more and more widespread. Defence ministries, institutions focused on rescue or emergency operations, civil protection, law enforcement and the sectors that work for citizen security in general, have their sights set on the advances that this technology represents.

There are different forms of insecurity that can affect citizens, 'be it crime, violence, terrorism, natural or man-made disasters, cyber attacks or abuses of privacy, and other forms of social and economic disorder'. European Commission.

The projects in which Robotnik provides security robots aim to understand, detect, prevent, deter, prepare and protect against security threats.

Why are security robots necessary? 

Here are the points taken from the European Commission's own website, which summarise the activities that are the focus of this research framework, which includes autonomous security robots:

- Fighting crime, illegal trafficking and terrorism, including understanding and combating terrorist ideas and beliefs;

- Protecting and enhancing the resilience of critical infrastructures, supply chains and transport modes;

- Strengthening security through border management;

- Improve cyber security;

- Increase Europe's resilience to crises and disasters;

- Ensuring privacy and freedom, including on the Internet, and improving society's legal and ethical understanding of all areas of security, risk and management;

- Improve standardization and interoperability of systems, including for emergency purposes;

- Supporting the Union's external security policies, including conflict prevention and peace-building.

What does a security robot do?

Autonomous security robots can perform advanced tasks ranging from advanced inspection of potentially dangerous territory, detection and prediction of threats - such as explosives or toxic substances - to assessment tasks and support to disaster rescue teams. 

Here are the security and rescue projects Robotnik is currently involved in:

CREST

Fighting crime with an autonomous platform with an advanced prediction, prevention, operation and investigation platform leveraging the IoT ecosystem.

In this case, the security robot that Robotnik provides, as a hardware supplier, is a UGV (unmanned ground vehicle) capable of deploying, autonomously in the field, a small UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).

  • Threat detection and assessment.
  • Dynamic mission planning and adaptive navigation for enhanced security based on autonomous systems.
  • Distributed command and control of police missions.
  • Information sharing and exchange of digital evidence based on blockchain.
  • Delivery of relevant information to different stakeholders in an interactive and tailored way.

RESPOND-A

Aims to develop holistic and user-friendly solutions for first responders. Robotnik is responsible for the development of robots for hazardous environments and support missions and is involved in the development of interfaces in security robots, and the application of command and control.

  • Equipment tools and mission-critical strategies for first responders
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Passive and active localisation and tracking
  • 360° multi-view interactive video transmission.
  • Coordination of autonomous robots and unmanned aerial vehicles.

ROBORDER

Border authorities and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) across Europe face significant challenges in the way they patrol and protect borders. ROBORDER aims to develop and demonstrate a fully functional autonomous border security system with unmanned mobile robots including aerial, water surface, underwater and land vehicles.

  • Autonomous swarm of heterogeneous robots for border security.
  • Fully functional autonomous border security system with unmanned mobile robots including aerial, water surface, underwater and land vehicles, capable of both autonomous and swarm operation.
  • Detection capabilities for early identification of criminal activities and dangerous incidents.

INTREPID

The aim here is to provide first responders with a new approach to accelerate the exploration and assessment of hazardous sites, enabling rapid and effective response. Improving first responder operations in the early stages of a disaster when the chances of saving lives are greatest and operations are slowed down by many types of uncertainties.

Robotnik's role in the project is to design and develop an unmanned security robot capable of performing scouting missions through rough terrain or complex indoor locations.

  • Recognition and assessment in dangerous incidents.
  • Rapid response is key to saving lives and minimising environmental damage.
  • Develop a platform that allows first responders to safely explore the scene, analyse and assess existing threats and decide, based on reliable situational awareness, on the next steps to take.
  • Use cyber-assistants (intelligent autonomous vehicles) to improve the speed, range and efficiency of complex site exploration.

FASTER

FASTER will provide innovative, accepted and efficient tools that enhance the capabilities of first responders in terms of situational awareness and communication.

Robotnik is the leader of the project's Work Package 5: "Autonomous Platforms". It involves the development of a new RB-CAR vehicle and also a SUMMIT-XL robot. They will be used by first responders to explore and check the environment and also to transport some heavy materials. These security robots allow

  • Tactical situational awareness providing innovative visualisation services for a portable common operating picture to depict indoor and outdoor scenarios.
  • Data collection through a secure IoT platform for distribution.
  • Resilient communication at the field level providing haptic communication capabilities, communication with K9s; and at the infrastructure level through 5G technologies and UAVs.

 

inspection robot

If you want to know more about what is a security robot or which are the possibilities offered by security robots for your project, you can consult the Robotnik team to solve any questions. 


What is a Pick and Place robot?

Pick and Place tasks are those that involve picking and placing in a different place or position, whether they are parts, products or other elements or loads. These are common logistical tasks in factories, warehouses and industrial environments, which a robot can handle perfectly well as they are mechanical, repetitive and tedious. This is where pick and place robots come into their own.

Traditionally, static robotic arms are referred to as pick & place robots, but Robotnik is a pioneer in autonomous mobile manipulation: it is a mobile platform that integrates a robotic arm. This means that the robot arm is no longer bound to a fixed, specific space, but can perform pick and place tasks in as many locations as required.

The advantages of Pick & Place robots for production processes are diverse, and derive, fundamentally, in two benefits: the reduction of production times and increase in the profitability of the same.

  • Increased production rate
  • Minimising errors in the production process
  • 24/7 working shifts
  • Increased production rate
  • Increased accuracy

How to choose a Pick and Place robot?

There is a wide range of picking robots on offer but not all of them are suitable for every application. The ultimate goal is to automate product manipulation and placement tasks within a production line.

Did you know that Robotnik has developed a robot specifically designed for Pick and Place tasks?

The RB-KAIROS+ mobile manipulator robot can not only perform these tasks in an optimal way, but it also does it in a collaborative way, sharing workspace with operators without risk.

Three factors should be taken into account:

  1. Do you need a fixed arm or do you prefer the arm to be able to change location? With this mobile manipulator, both options are available as it performs the task in the same or different locations. This means further optimisation of the investment in the robot.
  2. Arm reach. Robotnik’s RB-KAIROS+ is a pick and place robot that integrates a Universal Robots arm with a reach of 1,300 mm in the mobile platform.
  3. Payload. The pick and place tasks can be with very small to very large elements or parts. RB-KAIROS+ has a payload capacity of 12.5 kg on the arm and up to 250 kg on the platform.

What tasks can a Pick and Place robot perform?

They are especially useful for tasks in assembly or packaging applications (transporting or placing parts from one part of the chain to another), quality control (inspection of errors and removal of defective parts), screwdriving, metrology, assembly, polishing…

Many of Robotnik’s customers already had an arm in their business to perform these tasks, but they decided to maximise its potential by integrating it into a mobile platform. In this way, they added the ability of autonomous movement.

The RB-KAIROS+ mobile manipulator is one of the best-selling pick & place robots because of its versatility (the mobile platform is omnidirectional, allowing it to move to an infinite number of locations at a speed 1 to 5 times faster than a differential one) and because it is easy for the customer to set up.

Do you want to see an example of a Pick and Place robot operating in a real environment?


History of robots and robotics

  • History of robotics through the most important moments up to the present day.

Robotnik, as a company specialized in mobile robotics, is a witness of the important ‘boom’ that the robotics sector has experienced in recent years, having a definite boost with the recent emergence of disruptive technologies such as 5G, augmented reality, Artificial Intelligence or blockchain, to name a few examples. 

The origins of robotics and the first robots contain diverse names and dates, but there has always been the same common goal: to prevent humans from performing the heaviest, most dangerous and tedious tasks. 

Thanks to autonomous and industrial mobile robotics, many large companies, but also SMEs, are experiencing a reduction in production costs and an increase in their profitability.

What has the evolution of robots been like up to this point?

Here is a brief overview of this exciting sector to find out the main keys. 

 

Background of robotics

Do you know the meaning of the word 'robot'? Etymologically, the term comes from the Czech word robota meaning 'forced labor'. It was used for the first time, 100 years ago now, in a play by the author of the same nationality, Karel Capek.

This play entitled 'RUR (Rossum's Universal Robots)' was premiered in 1921 and was a great success all over the world, leaving without knowing it, a word that would last forever. 

To talk about the origin of robotics, we must mention Aristotle and his ideas about 'automated tools', Henry Ford, Leonardo Da Vinci and his mechanical knight or Isaac Asimov. Here we name the milestones that have brought real advances towards automation and autonomous mobile robotics, already in the middle of the 20th century.

Autonomous mobile robotics is considered to be that which is capable of making decisions in changing environments without the need for supervision by an operator. Some relevant historical data would be the following:

  • 50s, England. ELSIE (Electro-Light-Sensitive Internal-External) is the first mobile robot in history. Its technical capabilities were still very limited. It was really a light-sensitive electromechanical robot with internal and external stability. 
  • 60s, Standford Research Institute. SHAKEY: robot that already incorporated tactile sensors and a vision camera. It could move on the ground thanks to two computers (one on board and one remote) that were connected by radio. 
  • 70s, MARS-ROVER: platform that integrated a mechanical arm, proximity sensors, a laser telemetry device and stereo cameras. It was developed by NASA to explore hostile or unknown terrain. 
  • 80's, SRI's CART: platform that modeled obstacles thanks to Cartesian coordinates on its vertices. 

 

Shakey
SHAKEY robot. Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Do you want to read more about the progress of these milestones?

Evolution of industrial robotics

Industrial robots are not usually humanoid in shape, although they are capable of reproducing human movements and behaviors but with the strength, precision and speed of a machine. The first industrial robots were developed by George Devol, American inventor and founder of the first robotics company in history: Unimation. 

In 1954, what is considered the first industrial robot was developed in the USA: a hydraulic arm called Unimate, used to lift heavy loads, which was sold to General Motors. In the following years they developed several versions of the same model of the company Unimation that were introduced, little by little, in some factories mainly in the automotive sector. 

It was at the end of the 1960s and in the 1970s when considerably more advanced robotic arms appeared in which cameras or sensors were already used. The Shakey robot, designed in 1966 by the Standford Research Institute, stands out as an important milestone for mobile robotics. Shakey was the world's first mobile robot, thanks to software and hardware that allowed it to perceive and understand the environment, albeit in a limited way. 

The first mobile industrial robots also appeared in parallel. In 1954, Barrett Electronics Corporation brought out the first electric vehicle that did not require a human driver, what we know as the first AGV (Autonomous Guided Vehicle). AGVs acquired more complex behaviors in the 80s as technology advanced and already in the 90s we found AGVs with much more precise sensors and lasers. 

As explained in another post, an AGV is not an autonomous mobile robot. It is useful to understand the differences between the two in order to make the right decision when introducing them in a factory or company.

1980s and 1990s

Although the first industrial robots were created in the United States, in the 1980s and 1990s they were already being developed in some European and Asian countries, mainly in Japan and Sweden. You probably remember IBM's Deep Blue beating world champion Garry Kasparov in a game of chess.  

Nowadays, the development of Artificial Intelligence or other technologies such as those mentioned at the beginning of the article are so powerful that the game against Kasparov sounds obsolete. The applications that AI brings to robotics, and thus to the industrial sector, are infinitely more valuable and more profitable than winning chess games. Some of the advantages that AI brings to industrial robotics are: 

  • Increased accuracy 
  • Improved decision making (especially in the face of obstacles).
  • Predictive maintenance

Automation is a field in constant change, so sometimes it is difficult for some companies to start the path to a smart factory. For this reason, Robotnik always facilitates, accompanies and adapts mobile robotics to the specific needs of the company, whatever its size. Automation and robotics go hand in hand.

brazo robótico
Robotnik's robotic arm, 2012

 

Service robotics

Collaborative robotics is, by definition, service robotics. This is the sector in which Robotnik has been developing its activity for 20 years and which has allowed it to become a worldwide reference company.

A service robot for professional use is defined as a robot that operates partially or totally autonomously in the service of human welfare and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations (ISO TC 184/SC2 definition). 

We found several cases of service robotics in which Robotnik is currently involved. A clear example of this has been reflected in the time of pandemic by Covid-19, where service robotics has been key in different fields. 

Currently, Robotnik develops its robots and mobile manipulators for very diverse sectors: logistics, inspection and maintenance, defense, agriculture or security, among others.

AGVS
AGVS, Robotnik's robot

Industrial Robotics: present and future

Although for years industrial robotics has been reserved for large companies, Robotnik now also offers mobile robotics solutions for SMEs. These companies must bet on innovation and technology if they want to remain competitive. In this sense, the cost of investing in mobile robotics is an investment. 

Currently, there is already talk of the birth of the fourth industrial revolution, where autonomous mobile robotics plays a leading role. Intelligent robots are playing a crucial role in the digitization of the entire industry worldwide.

Flexibility, collaboration between machines and people and diversification into new sectors and business models are setting the pace for robotics in 2021, according to the conclusions published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). We must not lose sight, therefore, of the keys that will help companies continue to grow in the best possible way. 

 


ROS

Learning ROS online? Is possible thanks to the collaboration of Robotnik and The Construct

If we talk about autonomous mobile robotics, it is essential to talk about ROS. The ROS framework has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in the robotics industry in recent years. The idea was to find a way to help the development of robotic applications, facilitating communication between sensors and algorithms, following the paradigm of "program once, test everywhere".

Another new feature of this 2021 is the new remote warehouse lab in exclusive collaboration between The Construct and Robotnik. A lab that offers the possibility to learn ROS online, with both remote and on-site applications. 

The Construct is the leading online academy for learning ROS development in robotics. This platform has traditionally operated by providing both online and face-to-face training around the world in simulation environments.

For Robotnik it is important that the training that followers receive is with real demonstrations, so it offers the academy free annual licenses so that ROS programming with some of the robots it manufactures - the SUMMIT-XL, for example - can be done not only in a simulated environment, but with testing in a real environment.

All of Robotnik's robots support ROS software, and it has been working on robots for R&D for almost 20 years. These two aspects have led to a close relationship with The Construct since its inception, collaborating in different ways. Throughout this time, they have been able to count on some of Robotnik's most outstanding robots, such as the RB-1BASE or the RB-KAIROS +, for their academic offerings.

New laboratory in collaboration with Robotnik and The Construct

Now they are launching a remote laboratory to complement the experience of their students in simulation with real robots, so that the training, although remote, has a part of real use of a robot.

The warehouse lab aims to teach how to program autonomous collaborative robots to help in warehouses, using both ROS1 and ROS2. Students first practice with a simulation of the environment and then remotely connect to real robots and practice what they have learned on these autonomous robots.

The main robot in the lab is Robotnik's RB-1 BASE, plus a few others that are used as complementary tools. An example of this is the UR3 (from Universal Robots) with a gripper from OnRobot.

This robotic arm is necessary to have a real laboratory to help in warehouses, since the two basic tasks of these robots are to carry cargo from one place to another (task of the RB-1 BASE) and to be able to pick up objects and put them down where they belong (task of the manipulator robot).

Warehouse Robot lab

Who is this remote laboratory aimed at?

The remote lab is only available to Enterprise customers. These are enterprise customers who want to set up their robotics sections or who want to keep their team up to date with the latest developments in robotics with ROS.

They are also often project researchers.

This means that is a high quality laboratory, whose training is aimed at people with a certain level of prior knowledge and experience in the robotics sector. Our special workshops (online and on-site) are also held in this laboratory.

rb-1 base

But what is ROS?

ROS stands for Robot Operating System.

It is not exactly an operating system, but a set of open source software frameworks that allow hardware to be abstracted.

Before ROS existed, every time a user changed robots or acquired a different one, he or she had to learn to use new software. Today with ROS, it is possible to share programs, code and commonly used functions between different robots. It also facilitates integration between systems, which is more expensive if you change paradigms. 

At the moment, ROS is available for Linux Ubuntu and Debian but is still in the experimental phase for Windows or macOS.

Robotnik is dedicated from the beginning to product development and provision of engineering and R&D services in service robotics. That is why it started working with ROS already from the first distribution released in 2010 (Box Turtle) knowing that it is and will be the standard in robotics for years to come.

rb-1 base

In the last few years, ROS has established itself as the most widespread robotics framework worldwide. Every day more and more companies and institutions are opting to use ROS due to the facilities it offers, highlighting the possibility of using open source packages already created that allow the use of different components without the need to invest a large amount of time in the process.

However, the usefulness of ROS goes beyond the reuse of software created by the community. Being a middleware conceived from the beginning for use in robotics, it provides a set of tools that greatly facilitates the creation of a robust and coherent software architecture.

The software functionalities are distributed in the form of modular packages that can be added or removed without affecting the operation of the rest of the components of a robot. ROS provides different communication protocols between these packages, as well as tools to visualize and modify the robot's behavior in a simple and intuitive way.

Another great advantage of using an open source framework with a large community behind it is that its users already have the necessary knowledge to use any type of robot whose architecture is based on the same system. In addition, the large number of users translates into the creation of a large number of open source components that are in a process of continuous improvement. Although the initial adoption of ROS was mainly in research centers, the maturity of the product has led to tremendous growth in the service and industrial robotics segments in recent years.

Due to the modular nature of ROS, its packages are under constant development to add enhancements, correct weaknesses, and adapt its operation to the current state of the art. To prevent its users from having to manually update each package, exposing them to problems and incompatibilities, ROS has a versioning system that provides an up-to-date and functional set of packages. Each version is designed for use on a different Ubuntu distribution and has up to 5 years of support from its release. The versions with active support at the moment are Melodic and Noetic, with Melodic being the most widespread distribution at the moment.

The large adoption of ROS in recent years for use in robots of all types, together with the advancement of technology since its release in 2007, has led to the emergence of new needs that were not taken into account during the initial design of the system. To avoid making drastic changes that would break compatibility with already established systems, it was decided to create a new system called ROS 2, the first official version of which was released at the end of 2017.

ROS 2 features a new decentralized architecture intended for use on systems with diverse features, and with native support for Ubuntu, OS X and Windows. Its advantages include greater control over the execution of each component, the possibility of integrating real-time systems, or its multi-robot approach that offers the possibility of adjusting the communication system for use in environments where communications are not ideal. 

robot móvil

ROS 2 already has several years of adoption and constant improvements behind it, which has led to the release of LTS (long-term support) versions designed for stable use in all types of robotic systems. This has caused the industry to begin a migration process from ROS to ROS 2 that will extend over the next few years, and will significantly drive the evolution of the new system.

The store with ROS robots and component

The proof of this firm commitment by Robotnik is the creation of ROS Components, a portal for the sale of robotics products with ROS support.

Most of the robots and components on the market are supported in ROS, but sometimes it is not easy to find out which ones are, which version they support or how to purchase them. One of the main objectives of this store is to link the products with their drivers and/or software for ROS, detailing how to install and configure them and where to find tutorials or useful information, among other aspects. In the end, it's all about making the user experience as easy as possible.

ROS Components

In addition to supporting the ROS community, whose core is maintained by the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) which is a non-profit organization in charge of developing new versions, as well as maintaining the necessary infrastructure for servers, etc., ROS Components aims to promote the use of ROS as well as its maintenance and growth.

Would you like a ROS video tutorial? A ROS demo? You can leave your opinion below in comments.

Subscribe to Robotnik's newsletter to stay updated on the industry.


mobile robots applications

Mobile robotics applications: more safety and productivity for your plant

The applications of mobile robotics have enabled numerous industries to take advantage of all the benefits that intelligent automation brings to any production line. Mobile robotics applications have been the key automated tool for creating safer, more efficient industrial spaces and achieving greater productivity.

What can mobile robotics do to improve an industrial plant?

Simplification of process manipulation

The applications of mobile robotics in any industrial field are designed to optimize any production processes which could prove overly dangerous or repetitive for workers. 

Therefore, mobile industrial robots are designed to be tools that provide solutions and offer functionalities that simplify the jobs.

We just need to look at the functioning of a mobile manipulator that has all the information and room for movements to help it identify a material, handle it according to its weight, size, and fragility.

Safe collaborative work areas

Collaborative mobile robots are equipped with specific components to ensure they can share a work area with operators without exposing them to any type of risk. 

They work in a coordinated way, with sensors that detect when people are near, thus adapting their strength, speed, or route to prioritize worker safety. Even though they are autonomous robots operating remotely, the information they process is managed by the human workers who control their functioning.

Better productivity and better use of resources

There are considerable time savings because mobile robots or mobile manipulators act predictively to manage all the resources at their disposal (time and raw materials to be processed) more efficiently.

Productivity is also higher because robot applications reduce errors, reduce defective products, and improves the quality of the finished product. 

Industrial areas where mobile robotics applications have been the key to success

Safety

Inspection and maintenance tasks can incur risks and mean having to operate in unsafe areas, which is why mobile robots can be very helpful in perfecting these processes and overcoming difficulties.

This is the case with autonomous rescue robots which can detect the presence of gases or carry out search operations, becoming an automated tool with sensors and GPS controlled by emergency units to operate faster and with fewer risks.

Agri-food

In the horticulture and farming sectors, robot mobile manipulators handle repetitive tasks that save considerable time, but also prioritize precision and the exact identification of the materials they are handling.

Collaborative robots are now commonly used in fruit picking, grafting, and insect cultivation where artificial intelligence provides predictive data to optimize farms and plantations.

Health

Mobile robotics applications have also become tools that greatly improve quality of life and provide autonomy to dependent people.

Mobile robots can even be adapted into robotic or motorized shower systems for people with functional disabilities, to enable them to shower on their own by giving orders to the robot. 

Collaborative mobile robots can also become excellent hospital assistants, offering support in operating theatres, ICUs, or areas of risk for the healthcare team.

Logistics

Industrial robots have become a key technology in this industry, especially for tasks like transportation and picking tasks.


Robotnik sponsors the GTRob awards

Robotnik, once again, sponsors the GTRob (Robotics Thematic Group) awards from CEA Automática, an organization made up of numerous private partners and institutions in the field of automation, process control and new technologies.

The awards granted by the GTRob are the "Prize for the best doctoral thesis on robotics", with a prize of € 900; and the "Prize for the best robotics communication of the Automation Conference", with a cost of € 300. Both distinctions will be delivered within the framework of the ‘XL Automation Conference’ that will be held in Ferrol from September 4 to 6, 2019.

The Automation Conference is organized by different Spanish-speaking universities or research centers with the aim of bringing together professors, researchers, students and professionals in the field of Automation to discuss topics related to teaching and research (among others, automation and control, instrumentation, robotics, modeling and simulation of systems, etc.).

 

More information

 


The ‘National Robotics Conference’ is back

The next edition of the ‘National Robotics Conference’, organized by the Spanish Automation Committee (CEA), will take place in Alicante on June 13 and 14 continuing the editions previously held in Valladolid in 2018 and in Valencia in 2017.

Robotnik, as in previous years, will attend to publicize our vision of how collaborative mobile robots contribute to the improvement of production processes. It will be in the presentation of our colleague Néstor Bolinches ‘Collaborative Mobile Robotics: from R&D to Industry 4.0’ that will take place next Thursday, June 13 from 19:15 to 20:15 in the EPS I building of the Higher Polytechnic School of the University from Alicante, on the San Vicente del Raspeig Campus.

More information