What’s New in Robotics? 19.05.2023
News roundup for this week see living robot lost & found for dementia victims, Mitsubishi finally goes big for AMR, KUKU and Heller jointly developing mobile robots for CNC tool delivery, spot welding comes of age at last from UR cobot, soft robot with role minimally invasive for epileptic seizures and other neurological disorders.
Lost & Found Robots
Everyone loses something at one time or another. Many times we remember enough to finally find it. In contrast, those with dementia have a more difficult or near impossible chance of recovery.
How about a robot that is an excellent lost & found agent?
In 2020, approx almost 7 million people aged 65 years or older with varying degrees of dementia in the US, can mean lots of lost glasses, medicine bottles, cell phones, wallets, and dozens of other everyday essentials that are small and easy to misplace. In addition, the ongoing loss of personal items can reduce quality of life and make it a burden for caregivers to recover lost items.
Dr. Ali Ayub and three colleagues in electrical and computer engineering at Canada’s University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario) was struck by the rapid increase in the number of people dealing with dementia—9 million Americans could have dementia by 2030 and nearly 12 million by 2040. The trio set out to develop a rescue robot with lost & found skills. Surprisingly, it was the first ever lost & found robot. Never before has anyone tried to build a robot skilled at finding lost objects.
Using the mobile robot manipulator from Fetch Robotics, they created an object detection algorithm to detect, track, and store a memory log of a specific object in the robot’s camera view using the saved video.
With the robot able to distinguish one object from another, it can record the time and date when an object entered or left its field of view and thus can indicate when and where it last observed a particular object.
Mitsubishi has finally switched to mobile
Sooner or later every robotic vendor without a mobile robotic line (AMR) feels the pressure to become “car” or risk being left behind in the fast-paced global warehouse and factory automation movement.
With a spate of acquisitions and mergers happening around them in the mobile robot industry, Mitsubishi Electric just joined the club with a move to fix the missing AMR in its product line.
Kitchener Canada, based in Ontario Clearpath Roboticsparent company of OTTO Motor (OTTO launched in 2015) has entered into a supply agreement Mitsubishi Electric with OTTO self-driving vehicles to transport materials around warehouses and manufacturing facilities.
As OTTO writes on its website: “Smart factories start with intelligent AMR and OTTO Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) automate common material handling tasks, large and small, to help manufacturers overcome labor shortages, improve their business and stand out from the competition.”
This is exactly what Mitsubishi says it needs, writing in a recent press release: “Mitsubishi Electric aims to strengthen its support for optimization and complete factory automation by leveraging the AMR system and continue to contribute to the further development of manufacturing automation.”
New robot challenge: “Enhanced Automation”
Low quantity, high complexity – and as fast as possible seems to be the watchword for almost everything produced these days. As such, manufacturers are constantly looking for every aspect of production that can be further automated or produced more quickly.
until then, robot maker KUKA and CNC maker Heller have joined together to automate the process of loading and unloading previously manual machine tools onto CNC machines. In a project said to meet “quality, volume, and speed challenges,” plus address a shortage of skilled workers, KUKA and Heller have developed what they call the “increasing automation” or further automation of an already automated task or process. Specifically, sending a set of requested machine tools to a CNC machine to do a certain job, and after finishing the job, picking up the tool to send to another CNC machine that needs it.
As KUKA saw: “While automation solutions are well advanced in areas such as palletizing, handling or assembly tasks, tool automation – flexible and automated loading and unloading of machines with tools – is still in its infancy.”
There are tens of thousands of CNC machines (computer numerical control machines) in the world that are part of a the global market is projected to reach $132.93 billion by 2030. KUKA and Heller may have just created a very popular new business with their new invention, which is basically a moving robot and an articulated arm. The mobile tool system can also find damaged tools, then remove and replace them.
Universal Robots launches the spot welding cobot
As of now, that light cobot unable to perform spot welding due to the weight of the welding gun and the complexity of the weld. Previously, welding technologies such as MIG welding had been a popular choice for cobots while spot welding remained a barrier.
Based in California Pro Spot International have come up with a solution. The company claims that the i5s resistance spot welder is for use with a Universe Robots cobots will deliver up to three times more manufacturing capacity than manual welding.
“We’ve married the world’s most advanced spot welder with the most advanced cobot technology to deliver an industrial spot welding solution that improves job productivity, safety, consistency and reliability,” said Pro Spot Automation chief engineer, Bob Hamilton. “It’s the front line tomorrow, it’s here today.”
Global spot welding market in 2022 is $3 billion and growing at 3% CAGR. However, if peripherals like hoses, tanks, and welding guns, etc., are included, the market for 2026 is estimated at $11 billion.
According to Pro Spot and Universal Robots, the “next generation” automatic cobot spot welder can “feel the thickness and resistance of the material and adjust its weld profile automatically. It also captures data about each weld that can be used for quality control, traceability, and job repeatability.”
The cobot spot welder’s Wi-Fi connectivity allows instant updates, data export, and the ability to email weld logs for performance reporting.
The first show of this new generation of welders is at Automation 2023, May 22-25, in Detroit.
Soft robotic sensors under the skull
It may look alien, but if you suffer from epileptic seizures or other neurological disorders, it’s a godsend. And it’s placed under the cranium via a minimally invasive opening, making all other brain monitors look enormous by comparison.
The concept, said Stéphanie Lacour at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (Switzerland), is a new approach to placing electrodes on the surface of the brain “compared to the traditional method, in which surgeons make large holes in the skull the size of fully extended devices. There’s actually a very large surface area that you can get to without doing a major craniotomy,” he added.
The soft robot, about 2 centimeters long—and when fully extended spans 4 centimeters (0.78 inches to 1.50 inches) in diameter—has six legs made of flexible silicone polymer. The legs resemble curved flower petals radiating around the midsection. Each leg contains electrodes to monitor brain activity.
“Future versions,” says Lacour, could be two-way, not only sensing brain activity but also stimulating it. “That might allow the device to stop seizure activity before it starts, stimulate an area of the brain damaged by stroke or act as a brain-machine interface to allow people to control the device.”