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Hybrid Robots: Autonomous Industrial Mobile Manipulators

Samuel Bouchard
by Samuel Bouchard. Last updated on May 05, 2016 4:26 PM
Posted on May 12, 2011 9:42 AM. 2 min read time

Autonomous mobile manipulator

Industrial robots are mainly manipulator arms fixed on the ground. On the other hand, service robotics present many examples of mobile robots. Autonomous Industrial Mobile Manipulators (AIMM) lie at the boundary of both fields. The concept and the required technology exist; seems like now the research prototypes are close to making the transition to the real world.

The goal of an AIMM is to be a mobile, versatile, and easy-to-use robot arm manipulators. The robot must be able to work or along with people safely; it must be fully autonomous and automatic. AIMM must be able to move along workstations and perform different traditional tasks so it can be integrated into an existing network.

The task performed by an AIMM goes from feeding raw material to workstations, sub-assembly work, goods transportation, and machine tending. Of all these applications, transportation and loading seems to be the ones with the most potential for the short term according to the team behind the Little Helper, shown in the picture above.

An important challenge met by the AIMM concept is to have the required environment adaptability; AIMM must be able to deal with errors and unpredictable situations that will inevitably happen in the factory. To ensure their transition to the industrial sector the system must also prove that it is cost-effective. Finally, there is improvement to be made in the interface and programming of AIMM robots so that they become easy to use and not too expensive in setup time.


I have presented the AIMM prototype called the Little Helper in a previous article. Watch the above real world demo of Little Helper at Grundfos Industries that they’ve done since then. Challenges met in this demo are the wireless communication methods, safety issues, and robustness of the AIMM. Little Helper certainly proved that AIMMs are a promising technology for the manufacturing industry.

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Samuel Bouchard
Written by Samuel Bouchard
Samuel is CEO and co-founder of Robotiq. His mission is to free human hands from repetitive tasks. He is also the author of Lean Robotics: A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory. He lives in Québec City with his wife and four children.
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