Headline July 23, 2014



AS giant welding robots go about their business in a modern car factory, the scene looks like a cyberpunk vision of  Dante's  "inferno".

Amid showers of sparks, articulated mechanical arms nearly the size of telephone poles move sections of partially built vehicles so  ''scarily fast"  that anyone who accidentally ends up in the wrong place-

Is as good as dead, says Rodney Brooks, the boss of  Rethink Robotics, a robot-maker based in Boston. For this reason, industrial robots operate in cages or behind security fences. But by segregating robots from human-

Such safety measures greatly limit the tasks that robots can perform. In car factories, for example, most of the final assembly is done, expensively, by hand.

Neither workers nor robots can reach their productive potential without interacting more closely, says Volker Grunenwald, head of systems integration at Pilz, a German engineering firm.

Eager to design machines that can be used for a wider range of tasks, technologists are now figuring out how to bring robots "out of the cage"  so that they can work safely and more productively with people.

The aim is to combine the dexterity, flexibility and problem-solving skills of humans with the strength, endurance and precision of robots. The emergence of "co-operative"  or  "collaborative"  robots as these new machines are called-

Could also lead to robots that are better able to help out in the office, at school or in the home.

Last year, in a company first, German carmaker BMW introduced a slow-moving collaborative robot in its factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which co-operates with a human worker to insulate and water-seal vehicle doors.

The robot spreads out and glues down material that is held in place by the human worker's more agile fingers. When this is done without the help of a robot, workers  must be rotated off this uncomfortable task-

Just after an hour or two to prevent elbow strain. Today four collaborative robots work in the facility, and more are coming, in Spartanburg and elsewhere.

BMW expects  "a big, massive roll-out"  of the technology in 2014 in Germany, despite the country's tighter restrictions on human-robot interaction, says Stefan Bartscher, BMW's head of innovation. The company plans to design additional tasks-

For collaborative robots, as they are progressively introduced in five carmaking plants. These robots will require different technologies  from those found in traditional, non-collaborative robots. Indeed, when it comes to dealing with humans-

Robots have so few skills that even a seemingly simple task such as handing over an object commonly ends in a  tug-of-war, says Elisabeth Croft, a roboticist at the University of British Columbia.

With funding from GM, America's biggest carmaker,  Dr Croft's Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems  Laboratory is designing robots that can execute  "unscripted"  handovers to humans.

This requires the robot to determine whether a person wants and is authorised to have a particular item  -be it a power drill, a document or a cup of tea. The robot must then present the item in the most advantageous orientation for the human:

Adjusting its grip as the object's weight shifts. Finally, the robot must let go only when its sensors detect that the object is being purposefully and safely taken away.  

SO, safety first! : Dangerous industrial machinery is typically shut down the instant a worker  "breaks"  an infra-red light curtain or opens a door to enter a robot's cage. But safety systems of this sort have drawbacks.

Breaches typically stop an entire production line, alarming employees and causing delays that may cascade throughout the plant. Pilz has developed a multi- camera computer system that monitors the area surrounding robots and adjusts their behaviour accordingly.

Called  SafetyEye, the system allows a robot to say, rivet an aircraft without section off the entire area from people. Aware of its surroundings, the robot can roll along the length of the wing, slowing its movements if a worker approaches, or if he gets too close, stopping altogether without disrupting activity elsewhere.

Since it was launched in 2007, SafetyEye has allowed robots to be deployed in parts of factories where setting up light curtains or safety cages would be expensive or impractical.

There are additional ways to avert accidents. Some robots have red emergency stop buttons. Researchers have even made pressure-sensing  "artificial skin'' by sandwiching a rubbery silicone made with carbon black, a conductive material, between electrodes.

Compressing it with a slap generates an electrical signal that instructs the robot to freeze. For an additional override function, robots could be fitted with microphones and stopped with a shout, says PerVegard Nerseth, robotics boss at ABB, a Swiss industrial giant based in Zurich which has ramped up development of collaborative robots in the past few years.

Robots capable of teaming up with people are typically used to perform tasks that are being automated for the first time, so productivity gains especially high -provided the devices are quick and easy program.

A one-armed robot made by Denmark's Universal Robots (UR)  to  "work right alongside employees"  can be set up with an hour.

Programming usually takes less than ten minutes. The user usually moves the arm and the tool is it is holding from the starting point to the end point, tapping a touchscreen  "record"  button at points along the way.

Once the task is named and saved, the robot can be put to work. 

The Honour and Serving of the Post continues. Thank you for reading. See you on the next  -thrilling, one.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' Rethinking Robotics "'

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - The Voice of the Voiceless


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