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13. May 2016 / By Esben H. Østergaard / 1 Comment
While there is a movement globally to create smart factories and make things communicate digitally, a new trend is appearing on the horizon aiming to bring back the human touch in production. The trend is dubbed “Industry 5.0” or collaborative industries.
This redeployment of human creativity is necessary due to market evolvement and customer requirements demanding a high degree of individualization in the products they buy (as seen in the automotive sector, for instance). Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by Accenture Consulting, 85 % of manufacturers see the “connected workforce” being commonplace in their production processes by 2020. So, while robots are excellent at manufacturing standard products in standardized processes in a high production volume, adding this so-called “special something” to each and every product is a challenge where robots require guidance. Thus, we recognize the need to bring back the human touch to production processes.
In production processes, automation can be used to its fullest potential only when there is a spark of human creativity influencing the processes as well. On its own, an automated production with traditional industrial robots will do only what it is being told – often only after long and strenuous programming efforts. Collaborative robots, however, work in sync with human employees. These two forces complement each other and thrive together, as the human can add this so-called “special something”, while the robot processes the product further or prepares it for human attention. In this way, the employee is empowered and uses the cobot as a multi-functional tool: as a screwdriver, packaging device, palletizer, etc. The robot is not meant to replace human workforce, but to take over strenuous or even dangerous tasks. Thus, human employees can use their creativity to turn to more complex projects. “We have already saved three man-years of monotonous work thanks to our two UR5s”, says Sigurdur Runar Fridjonsson, Director at Mjolkursamsalan Akureyri, Icelands biggest dairy producer.
At Paradigm Electronics in Toronto, Canada, a UR10 robot works side-by-sied with an employee polishing loudspeaker cabinets:
“Collaborative robots is a new technology that allows us to have a human and a robot working in the same workspace. They’re now working in a pendulum type of an operation where they can safely interact, allowing the human to check whether the robot has done an adequate amount of work before the final polishing is handed over to the human. It’s a very hand-in-hand kind of operation,” says Senior Manager of Production Services at Paradigm, John Phillips.
Of course, this means that collaborative robots need to have certain characteristics: They need to be flexible, easily programmable and safe. Only if these preconditions are met, a true collaboration of human and robot can take place and thrive.
Whether they are used to dive deep below the surface to retrieve archaeologically valuable treasures or to be sent into exclusion zones to decommission nuclear waste, robots are a resilient and multi-functional tool and – thanks to technology – can be used as avatars for humans to reach destinations and execute tasks which were impossible to perform in the past. The knowledge is available, let’s make use of it.
Esben H. Østergaard, Director de Tecnología de Universal Robots, es responsable de la mejora de los robots UR existentes y del desarrollo de nuevos productos y uno de los creadores del producto. Desde 2001 a 2005 trabajó investigador y profesor asistente en robótica en la Universidad del Sur de Dinamarca, donde creó la base para la reinvención del robot industrial, que le llevó, ese mismo año, a fundar Universal Robots junto con dos de sus colegas de investigación. Desde entonces, Universal Robots ha obtenido alrededor de 65 patentes de la tecnología del robot. Además de su trabajo como CTO, Esben H. Østergaard participa en proyectos nacionales de investigación y en varias universidades en Dinamarca. En los inicios de su carrera, trabajó como científico investigador en USC Robotics Labs en el sur de California y también en AIST, en Tokio, como investigador visitante. Durante sus estudios en Informática, Física y Multimedia en la Universidad de Aarhus en Dinamarca, se centró exclusivamente en robótica y se convirtió en campeón mundial de fútbol robótico en 1998.