industry 4.0

Mobile robots and safety: the experience of Robotnik in HR-RECYCLER project

Collaborative robots have come front and center on the international stage as they’ve become widespread in Industry 4.0. Today we have more powerful, more advanced and more productive robots, so safety has become a key element.

Safety is the key

For Robotnik, as an experimented robot manufacturer and within the collaborative environment of the HR-Recycler project, this aspect is especially important since humans and robots will be working side by side. The solution proposed to routing materials inside a factory has to be done in a safe manner, in this case, the robots designed are the RB-KAIROS+ (mobile robotic manipulator) and the RB-ARES (pallet truck). It’s really important how the mobile robots  will show the intention of motion, elevate or manipulation.  

industry 4.0

 

To ensure the correct operation within the complex framework of this project, Robotnik has equipped its robots with sensors and signalers that allow the robot to proceed safely and show its intentions in advance. 

There are a number of ways manufacturers can introduce safety measures in their automated operations. The type and complexity of these safety measures will vary by the robotic application, with the aim to make the mobile robot safer, there are certain safety rules and standards that these collaborative robots must comply with, in Europe are found in EN ISO 3691-4:2020 and ISO 12100:2010 6.4.3

Clarifying the ISO standard

This post aims to give to the reader a brief description about what, why and how all the premises of the ISO will be reached.

First of all, what does the normative include? The standards on warning systems say:

  1. When any movement begins after a stop condition of more than 10 seconds, a visible or acoustic warning signal will be activated for at least 2 seconds before the start of the movement.
  2. A visible or acoustic warning signal will be activated during any movement.
  3. If the human detection means are active, the signal will be different.
  4. When robots change their direction from a straight path, a visible indication will be given of the direction to take before the direction changes in case that the robot is driving autonomously.
  5. When the lift is active, there must be special signage.

The solution proposed is a two-steps software that will manage the signals of the robot, explained after the diagram and on red cells:

The robot_local_control is a manager node, it has information about the status of the whole robot, that is, status of the elevator, goal active, mission ended, etc. On the right side, a group of nodes that manages the movement of the robot with a level of priority:

  • Robotnik_pad_node:  The worker uses a PS4 pad to control the robot and this node will transmit the orders, non autonomous mode. 
  • Path planning nodes: like Move_base, it controls the robot and we speak of it as autonomous mode.

Robotnik has installed on its mobile robots  two ways to alert facility users, acoustic devices or light indicators through the acoustic_safety_driver and leds_driver.

industry 4.0

As you can see, there are two steps to link the top and bottom parts, a node to transform the movement into signals to show the intention of the robot and another one to orchestrate the both signal types and manage the requirements of the normative. 

The turn_signaling_controller aims to solve the first and the fourth requirements of the normative depending on the robot mode (autonomous or not autonomous). 

In non autonomous mode, and as the norm says, the motion depends on an appropriately authorised and trained personnel so it is enough to show that the robot is moving by reading the movement command and checking the velocity applied. 

In autonomous mode the robot navigates to a goal point through a path calculated by the planner, furthermore it manages the AGV to avoid obstacles dynamically and for this reason it is important to alert workers every moment.

What is the process?

This is a very brief description of the function, it bears the plan in mind and recalculates at the same time that the planner does just to be able to show the most up-to-date prediction of motion.

Last but not least, the robot_signal_manager aims to solve the rest of the problems since it has access to the robot status, it shows a light signaling or an acoustic signal 2 seconds before the motion, it gives priority to the emergency signals (consistent with the behaviour of the robot, red signals means that the robot will be stopped) and the signals that are not exclusive are showed using beacons or acoustic signals.

The occupied zone is one of the non exclusive signals, robots have some extra beacons that blinks on red when there is something on the protective zone (close to the intention of motion of the robot, inside the critic zone) and on yellow when there is something on the warning zone (near the protective zone).

 

Summarizing

Safety is not only stopping the robot or avoiding a crash when human-robot collaboration takes place. With the development of these nodes Robotnik aims not only to decrease the probability of accident or comply with the safety ISO premises, but also to help workers feel more comfortable with the mobile robot’s decisions and bring human-robot collaboration closer, showing clear signals about how the robot will perform.


industry 4.0

Robotnik in the recycling of electronic waste (E-Waste): HR-RECYCLER

The recycling of electronic waste (E-Waste) is currently the biggest threat to the planet, according to the Global Recycling Foundation.  

In fact, the United Nations recently warned that e-waste is considered to be the "fastest growing waste stream in the world"; we are actually talking about around 53 million tonnes per year (according to the UNU Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report, in 2019), which will increase considerably in the coming years, including toxic components and hazardous waste if not properly recycled.

The recycling of WEEE is a time and effort consuming process, due to the variety of devices to be recycled and the different components and materials they are made of. In the face of this reality, we, the industries, cannot remain on the sidelines. 

Robotnik wants to be part of the solution and therefore, we participate in HR-RECYCLER, a multidisciplinary project which aims to improve the recycling capacity of European countries.

Human-robot collaboration in the WEEE recycling process.

A key issue in recycling processes is the routing of raw and disassembled materials and components through the recycling plant. This is a resource-consuming process, as materials and components are processed in various parts of the factory. In a typical recycling process, unsorted devices arrive at the recycling plant in large trucks. After sorting, each device has to be transported to its recycling station where it is separated into its components. The components can be further separated or ready to be moved to their final destination.

This is where Robotnik comes in. Transporting materials within a factory has to be done affordably, efficiently and safely. Furthermore, with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, mobile robots have to be able to operate in collaboration with humans sharing the same space.

How to make it affordable?

Affordability is achieved by providing a mobile robot capable of transporting the same baskets that the factory already has, which reduces the number of changes that need to be made in the factory.

How to make it really efficient?

Efficiency is achieved through state-of-the-art navigation algorithms, as well as factory planning algorithms in general. Collaboration is achieved through the use of human-aware navigation, but also by increasing communication between the robot and the human about the robot's intentions. Safety is achieved through the application of stringent measures, sensors and actuators that comply with the latest safety standards.

All this effort is directed by Robotnik towards the creation of a new robot: RB-ARES. Robotnik has developed a reliable solution that integrates robots, localization systems, configuration and programming tools (HMI) and Fleet Management System (FMS). This knowledge will be integrated into the new RB-ARES, which is able to carry up 

to 1.500 Kg. and make a completely autonomous navigation.

Application of the RB-ARES robot in in recycling.

The purpose of RB-AREs will be to pick and place EURO pallets at ground level and direct them through the factory with the required features of affordability, efficiency, safety and collaboration with people. To fulfil this mission, RB-Ares is equipped with state-of-the-art actuators and sensors.

 

RB-ARES is powered by ROS, as well as Robotnik's own technology for navigation, localization and human-machine interface, which allows easy configuration, programming and integration of the robot into different applications and fleet management systems, as is required by Industry 4.0. This is the main feature of Collaborative Mobile Robots like RB-ARES, an intelligent mobile robot that assists humans in a shared workspace and supports the optimisation of processes within the industry.

[1] World Economic Forum. (2019). A New Circular Vision for Electronics: Time for a Global Reboot, (January), 24. Retrieved from


BADGER project, the autonomous underground robotic system

Robotnik participates at the BADGER project, whose goal is the design and development of the BADGER autonomous underground robotic system that will be able to drill, manoeuvre, localise, map and navigate in the underground space, and which will be equipped with tools for constructing horizontal and vertical networks of stable bores and pipelines.

The proposed robotic system will enable the execution of tasks that cut across different application domains of high societal and economic impact including trenchless constructions, cabling and pipe installations, geotechnical investigations, large-scale irrigation installations, search and rescue operations, remote science and exploration, and defence applications.

Robotnik will be the main actor within work package involving Robotic system design and hardware development, plus the overall system integration. This task will focus in the integration of the main locomotion units, propulsion (for driving control along the tunnel) and directional (for steering control).


robotics in food industry

Precision viticulture takes another step thanks to the Vinbot project

The European project VINBOT, based on precision viticulture, has just finished after three years of intense work.

The VINBOT robot is based on the mobile autonomous platform SUMMIT XL and the main objective of it is to optimize the performance management and the quality of the wine.

This has been made possible thanks to the wide sensing that the robot is equipped with and has allowed it to capture and analyze images of vineyards and 3D data through the use of cloud computing applications.

VINBOT emerges as a response to the need to boost the quality of European wines through the application of precision viticulture. The project, which has successfully completed, will allow wineries and winemakers to be able to make accurate predictions of the performance of their vineyards. Once this is done, the production and marketing of the wines can be favorably organized.

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