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.


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.


mobile robot navigation with human interface device

Fast-growing industries thanks to robotic applications

Robotic applications in Industry 4.0 have become a determining factor for growth for companies in different sectors, thanks to the benefits of this type of intelligent automation.

At Robotnik, we develop automated solutions to expand and optimize mobile robotics applications in logistics, inspection or maintenance, among others.

What can boost an industry’s growth in the age of automation?

In a global, competitive, and uncertain market, fast growth is possible when an industry invests its resources in automated tools.  Those tools allow industries to have greater control over their production and avoid workers from repetitive tasks.

How Industry 4.0 helps to grow companies?

Industry 4.0 helps the companies to grow sustainably and efficiently at a good solid pace, focused on using its technology to help people improve the way they work and their quality of life. 

Creating more flexible processes

This is one of the main objectives of Industry 4.0 processes and what optimizes production lines to make them more versatile, adaptable, and streamlined when it comes to introducing changes or adapting production to customer needs.

Robotic applications

Saving costs

The starting point here is to save the most valuable resource of all: time. This means a shorter time to market and the ability to increase production. More efficient production also means smarter use of materials and supplies, as well as lower maintenance costs. Overall, production is higher and there are lower costs per finished unit.

Increasing process control

This will facilitate a better monitoring of results and more efficient error detection. As a result, there will be a greater capacity to anticipate and prevent the assembly line from suffering interruptions, wasting unnecessary time on certain tasks, or lowering quality standards.

With increased control over each stage of production, there will also be an improvement in worker safety, thus guaranteeing a risk-free working environment.

Improving information

Mobile robotics applications generate data and create predictive models that streamline decision-making. 

The interconnection between robotic applications in Industry 4.0 helps you to create and share data that is then converted into more detailed and up-to-date information, thus enabling companies to make improvements or predict results more accurately.

Accessing new markets

With improved productivity, greater control over the production, and better use of the information generated by the mobile industrial robots, the industry will now have everything in its favor to enable it to expand into new markets, reach new potential customers, and have greater bargaining power due to an increased company value.

Mobile robotics applications in Industry 4.0

The mobile robotics automate tasks such as load transporting in indoor and outdoor environments. This is a standard application in logistics for example. Thank you the Fleet Management System (FMS), these robots are coordinated among them and with the other tools of the company. 

In the case of inspection and maintenance applications, which involves the execution of repetitive and exhaustive tasks, the mobile robots, equipped with sensors or machine vision can autonomously monitor the state of infrastructures or access risk areas to ensure they are safe before operators intervene.

Growing faster sustainably, and exploiting the opportunities of Industry 4.0 is where mobile robotics applications have much to contribute, not least in making projects safer, more efficient, and less costly.


Smart factories: how robots are leading industry changes

Smart factories are production companies and factories with a level of automation and digitalization that allows them to take advantage of the potential of the latest technologies to improve their productivity and create more flexible and streamlined processes.

These types of factories operate within the realms of Industry 4.0, also known as the Connected Industry. In this industry, what stands out most is how data and information flows are created, as well as the involvement of robots and humans in those processes.

When we speak of smart factories, that implies mobile robotics autonomous and collaborative robots that enable intelligent automation and the creation of safer, more productive work environments where the interaction between machines and humans ensures optimal use of each of their qualities and capabilities.

What are the characteristics of a smart factory?

To understand why collaborative robotics is one of the key players in Industry 4.0 - promoting innovative changes and creating new production methods - then we must begin by understanding the features that determine whether an industry is operating intelligently or not.

Automation of processes

This process of automation doesn’t set out to replace manpower; it aims to optimize tasks through the use of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, or the Internet of Things.

These automated solutions give access to a wealth of data that generates more information, reduces uncertainty, and increases process control.

Flexibility

Production and market environments are increasingly changing and the survival of many companies depends on their degree of adaptability to new customer needs or demands. 

To be able to cope with this, they first need to create a streamlined, flexible industrial workspace that can adapt to change, without needing to incur large losses. In this way, automation allows for greater versatility without suffering production downtime.

Redesigning the production line

Connectivity and automation are responsible for making collaborative robotics and intelligent mobile manipulators more accessible for all types of industries and all sizes of companies. 

So, we can see that production volumes don’t create so many competitive advantages anymore; these days competitiveness revolves more around the ability to streamline the assembly line processes with fewer resources, and to create higher quality products at a lower cost.

Focusing on work strengths

It is important to bear in mind that smart factories don’t dispense with the human workforce; they strive to relocate them to take care of more value tasks.

Collaborative robots are designed to assist humans; their function is to interact with them and function under their control in order to take care of their speciality: repetitive tasks carried out uniformly and at a constant speed.

Mobile robotics solutions at the forefront of Industry 4.0

Robotnik is an expert in the design and manufacture of mobile robots and mobile manipulators that are used as automated solutions for different applications and services, and especially for logistics.

mobile manipulator in warehouse

Mobile robotics for logistics by taking over the tasks of transporting and picking materials, and, in turn, freeing operators from repetitive and tedious tasks where efficiency and effectiveness can be lost.

The mobile robots are controlled by a Fleet Management System that simplifies the handling of the robots and creates safe, efficient transport routes, where robots can work in the same environment as operators.

Mobile manipulators are a very useful automated solution in smart factories because they permit you, above all, to save time and improve the efficiency of any given process.

Mobile manipulators are extremely useful for industrial applications such as pick and place, part feeding, metrology, quality control, operations on large parts or packaging, cleaning, polishing, screwing or drilling.

The main advantage of a mobile manipulator is its capacity to expand the cobot workspace unlimitedly. In the case of RB-KAIROS+ from Robotnik's it should be noted its omni-directional movement which allows the reduction of times, making it 1/5 times faster than a differential.

The simplification of mechanical processes is the greatest added value that collaborative mobile robots can bring to the industry, leaving creativity to people.


robotics in warehousing

Collaborative Robots vs Industrial Robots: key differences

When we talk about Industry 4.0, we can’t help but talk about collaborative robots and how this intelligent automated solution has been a turning point in the integration of new technologies in industry.

Industry 4.0 has been made possible thanks to the extensive experience already obtained in the field of industrial robotics and its presence on the production lines to automate tasks in a wide variety of sectors, all with the aim of improving productivity, efficiency, and quality.

We would quite possibly never be talking about collaborative robots without the original development of industrial robots and their evolution towards the design of intelligent automated solutions, based on interaction with humans.

mobile industrial robotics

Because of this, none of these types of robotics is better than the other,  they are complimented tools. Rather they are complementary, they are automated systems developed for different types of needs and objectives. It is, therefore, essential to understand what they are, what they contribute to industry, their key differences, and how they facilitate coexistence and work coordination.

Industrial robots

Industrial robots were created as an automated solution to take on intensive production tasks that require a constantly moving assembly line.

They are generally large and heavy, and placed in fixed positions within the industrial plant, configured with modules that do not have force sensors.

These robots are designed and configured to work automatically and intensively, their priority being the constant execution of their tasks. In addition, they need a fenced safety area to protect the human operators around them. 

Industrial robots are designed to perform a single task with high precision and speed. It doesn’t need to be moved, and so its positioning is a priority. The rest of the workers' tasks and processes are adapted to fit in with the robot’s capabilities and workload.

In the case of mobile robotics, we could tell that the first step in the industrial sector were the AGVs. These types of robots require physical elements to function (magnets, beacons ...), so they imply a modification of the layout, they are not capable of overcoming obstacles and the same robot doesn't have the same flexibility that a CMR does to work in different locations.

Collaborative robots

The collaborative robots are automated solutions designed to work interactively with humans. To facilitate this, they are specially designed to be quite compact and lightweight, thus ensuring they can be easily moved and take up little space in a plant’s working areas.

Collaborative robots are designed to work with people, and so safety is key. For that reason, they have built-in movement detection sensors which ensure that they can alter their operations or speed to facilitate safe shared-working environments.

mobile industrial robotics

They aren’t designed to carry out just one specific task, but, rather, to simplify the different processes that they may be involved in. This is why adaptability and flexibility are priorities in their design, as well as being easy to programme in order to carry out their different tasks optimally. 

The Collaborative Mobile Robots (CMR) have numerous advantages compared to traditional AGVS and help to reduce production costs for their rapid installation, flexibility, space saving, improved safety in the workspace and represent an aid for operators. As we have already mentioned before, they do not require physical elements and can work in different locations.

What are the differences between industrial robots and Collaborative Robots?

In general terms, the differences lie in the purpose they have been designed and developed for.

As far as industrial robots are concerned, they are designed to automate tasks and improve productivity, efficiency, and quality. They are created to perform a single task, but they can perform it so efficiently that they become essential for the optimal operation of an assembly line.  Is the case of industrial arms in sectors such us automotion or alimentation, for example.

So, as you can see, we’re talking here about robots with a high degree of specialization, and a complex configuration carried out by experts, involving the creation of a workspace that requires specific safety measures. In addition to this, there are electricity, operation, and maintenance costs.  

A cobot, on the other hand, is a collaborative robot, which means they are automated tools created to operate under the guidelines of an operator, with whom it works in a coordinated and safe manner, all in the same workspace. This makes it capable of executing a single task or intervening in different tasks, depending on the production needs and the parameters it has been configured with.

mobile robot in warehouse

Because of this, a collaborative robot stands out for its versatility and ease of programming. This means that it can be easily integrated into the production line and can be operated and configured by an operator with basic knowledge.

This type of robot is able to free operators up from repetitive and precision-demanding tasks, thus helping to improve productivity and the quality of the result. This adaptability and interactive working influence their cost, as cobots stand out for their quick return on investment.

The CMR are perfect for autonomous transport loads and the mobile manipulators are designed for tasks such as pick&place, part feeding,  packaging, cleaning, polishing, screwing or drilling.

So, as we can see, both industrial robots and collaborative robots have their place on the production line, with the former conceived as a replacement for human workers, and the latter as a helper and ally to improve work efficiency.


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.