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Impressive Assembly from SMErobotics at Automatica

Alex Owen-Hill
by Alex Owen-Hill.
Posted on Jul 05, 2016 1:00 PM. 4 min read time

SMEs were a big thing at this year's Automatica. The SMErobotics booth was devoted to creating "SME-suitable robots" for this growing market sector of automation. We went along to check out their demos, and found a couple of Robotiq 2-Finger Gripper making hydraulic valves and more. Let's have a look at what we saw.

During our live coverage of the Automatica trade show, we spoke about many of the important themes of the trade show - Industry 4.0, new collaborative robots, and the future of simple robot programming. However, there was one topic which we didn't really touch on - SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises).

SMErobotics was part of the supporting program at Automatica 2016. This EU-funded project presented 8 different demos to showcase how robotics can be used in SMEs. We went along to the booth and found a familiar Robotiq Gripper being used in an impressive assembly demo.

Uncertainty and Adaption for Cobots

2-Fingher_Gripper_and_KUKA_iiwa.jpgWe all know that collaborative robots are very adaptable. However, there are limits to their adaptability. Robotic assembly, for example, is difficult when there are low tolerances and complex parts. Most current cobot setups are also not easily adapted to variations in components and changes in product design.

At Demo 6 in the SMErobotics booth, these challenges had been overcome by a team from the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg and the Democenter-Sipe Foundation. They were using a KUKA IIWA with Robotiq 2-Finger Gripper in a demo titled "Hydraulic valve assembly using sensitive compliant lightweight robots (HyLight)."

The task involved autonomous assembly of a hydraulic valve, which was made of 17 tiny components with very low tolerances. The components were presented in unstructured trays, such as are commonly found in electronics workshops. An advanced, fixed vision setup was used to detect the assembly, using a combination of 2D and 3D vision.

We took some photos of the task at the event. However, as the task was quite complicated it's easier to understand by watching this video made by SMErobotics themselves.



If you want to find out more about the task, there is also a full-length, 10 minute video on their YouTube channel, which gives a more complete view of it.

Each of the eight demonstrations in the SMErobotics booth were demonstrating some core achievements of the project. The two achievements shown in this demo were "Robust production by cognitive competences" and "Process adaptation and task learning." Together, they allow the robot to operate with unsorted components, deal with uncertainties in the task and respond to product variations.

We also found a second Robotiq Gripper being used at demo 4. This demonstration showed how mobile assembly workers can use a robot as a co-worker. We didn't get any photos of this one, but you can find a video about the demo here in which they use a different gripper and there are some nice photos of the Robotiq Gripper on their exhibit page.

What is SMErobotics?

The SMErobotics booth was all the work of one inter-European consortium of partners. These 25 partners mostly include industrial companies, some of which are end-users, and a few universities. I think the best way to explain the project is to show their promo video.



SMErobotics is an exiting project and it looks like the researchers have been able to make some significant leaps forward in what is possible with collaborative robotics. We were very impressed by what we saw in their booth at Automatica 2016 and it was great to see such a high performance being achieved with the 2-Finger Gripper.

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Alex Owen-Hill
Written by Alex Owen-Hill
Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.
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