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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Robotic Dreams from the Netherlands 2012

In recent years technology roadmaps have become a popular management planing and forecasting tool for robotics communities in Japan (JSME 2007), Europe (SRA 2009) and USA (RRM 2009). Technology roadmaps are used to define short-term and long-term goals and develop plans how to meet the goals. Robotics academia and industry have used this tool to reach a consensus about a set of robotics needs and the robotics technologies required to satisfy those needs. Strategic Robotics Research Agendas have been used to help forecast technology developments and provide frameworks to plan and coordinate technology investments and developments.
Dutch Robotics Strategic Agenda 2012
The latest example of a national robotics roadmap comes from The Netherlands. Since April 2010, in the Netherlands robotics activities are coordinated by RoboNED. This Dutch robotics network, chaired by Prof. Stefano Stramigioli, aims to stimulate the synergy between the robotics fields and to formulate a national focus. RoboNED  has successfully developed an ecosystem of more than 650 registered interested parties and 340 participants, consisting of a well-balanced representation of researchers, entrepreneurs, societal institutions and users from the various application and technology fields within robotics.

The new Dutch Robotics Strategic Agenda (2012)  is the result of multiple iterations among the key players in the Netherlands and a real Dutch teamwork. Robotics is described as a "large multidisciplinary field including many key technologies and with a very broad  field of applications." Based on a market analysis and selected application fields a number of key markets, opportunities and risks for Dutch robotics have been studied.
Dutch Robotics 2012

Credit: Lely, Astronaut Milking System

The Dutch robotics community describes robotics as a booming industry and urges the country, not to "miss the train!", which means to motivate politicans to invest money in robotics R&D. A well known message from robotistics all over the world in search of research funding. Roboned foresights with reference to Japanese industry data from 2005 and IFR industry statistics 2010 a "huge opportunity for the Netherlands to become an important global player in robotics".

From Milking Automation to Elderly Care Automation

The Dutch robotics vision is based on the fact that the Netherlands is world leader in milking robots developed and launched almost twenty years ago by Dutch company Lely. In early December 2011 the 12,500th Lely Astronaut milking robot was installed. Total estimated revenue from milking robotics sales in 2010 was around  $ 390 million in the Netherlands, being around 11 % of the worldwide professional service robot market and 52 % of the global field  robot  market. Considering the expected worldwide growth in this field (17.4 % over 2010-2014), the chances for the Netherlands in field robotics are expected to be huge. Besides the field robotics, the Dutch company Frog AGV Systems is active in logistic robotics. In domestic service robotics Philips is active in the robot vacuum cleaner market.

Opportunities & Strengths

Roboned repeats what other robotics communities have claimed before, that there is a "large social need for robotics e.g. in healthcare due to the aging population and in agriculture due to shortage of labor."
In Care Robotics the Netherlands have a good starting position due to scientific knowledge and available technology. Some of the most interesting robotics applications in Agro & food are livestock farming (milking robots, cleaning), arable farming (autonomous vehicles), protected cultivation (harvesting),  orchards (harvesting, spraying), plant propagation, ornamentals (pruning), and post-harvest processing (grading, packing). This are great opportunities for highly ranked Dutch universities to participate in robotics R&D in cooperation with "a lot of innovative high-tech mechatronic engineering companies supplying components for the robotics industry." The strength of the Netherlands is also a positive innovation climate, with direct connections between companies and knowledge institutes.

Weaknesses and Threats
Some of the weaknesses studied by Roboned are the lack of qualified engineers to develop competitive robotics solutions, the lack of investors in robotics and skepticism in society about robotics. Roboned confirms also that social acceptance of robots is a critical issue.

Final conclusion
Despite the identified weaknesses and threats Roboned is optimistic for Dutch robotics and recommends cross-domain collaboration on technological and economic challenges. The final selfpromoting message of Roboned is that "it is of great importance to the development of robotics that the existing ecosystem is further developed and academia-industry collaboration is improved in order to transform opportunities into commercialized products."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Robotics@Home Winners 2012

The Microsoft Robots@Home competition started in September 2011 with round 1 and in January 2012 10 finalists were selected for round 2. The winners were announced at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012. According to Microsoft the event was a huge success with over 100,000 people in attendance.
Arthur Wait, Vice President of Engineering at a Silicon Valley consulting firm, won the Grand Prize and $10.000 for his SmartTripod, a robotic assistant that follows a person around and handle camera duties in a natural manner. SmartTripod runs on a Parallax Eddie robot and Microsoft's Robotics Developer Studio (RDS).
Check out the video below for a great demonstration.

Todd Christell, Manager of Network Architecture and Support for SpringNet, won the First Prize and $5000 for his KEMODA elderly assistance robot.

Dan Sionov and the Plant Sitter team won the Second Prize and $3,000 for their plant- watering robot.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Robot Quince Inside Fukushima

Robonable has released a new video report from the inside of the demaged nuclear power plant reactor 2 in Fukushima. In late March 2012, one of the Japanese Quince robots, developed by Chiba Institute of Technology, was sent in to check on an unusual thermal reading in a certain area of the reactor. While inside, they checked the radiation levels as well. According to media reports radiation levels were much higher inside the plant than previously assumed.

Heartland Robotics: Channel Marketing Manager Wanted

Boston based Heartland Robotics, prepearing the release of its revolutionary manufacturing robots in 2013, announced via LinkedIn the job of a Channel Marketing Manager (CMM). According to the job description the new manager will lead targeted programs, collateral, awareness/PR, and lead generation support for US Distributors. The CMM will create and execute Distributor training, including product and value proposition, create and manage MDF and/or Co-op program to increase channel sell-through, create collateral that persuasively communicates Heartland messages while meeting the needs of individual Distributors: video and print collateral (including writing, photography, and graphic design). Other tasks will be to contribute to social media and blogging programs in support of Distributors, work with Distributors to support their tradeshow presence, create, measure, and track marketing metrics for each Distributor and create and execute Heartland Distributor Conferences and Newsletters.
  • 5+ years experience as B2B Channel Marketing professional, with a demonstrated track record of successfully executing the responsibilities listed above in both individual contributor and managerial roles
  • Passionate about persuasive communication, both written and oral
  • BA/BS degree
  • Experience with CRM is required; experience with marketing automation tools a plus
  • Experience in the manufacturing automation or motion control industries a plus
  • B2B social media experience a plus
11 people have applied according to LinkedIn. More jobs at Heartland Robotics can be found here

Friday, May 25, 2012

Husqvarna defends leading position in robotic mowers

Credit: Husqvarna/Automower

Swedish Husqvarna Group, pioneer and market leader in robotic lawn mowers, is taking legal action against Positec Germany GmbH claiming Positec's Worx robotic mower Landroid infringes two of Husqvarna's patents for robotic mower technology. Husqvarna vows to vigorously defend against infringements of its intellectual property.
Credit: Positec/Worx, Landroid

Husqvarna pioneered the engineering of the robotic mower in 1995, an innovation that mows lawns by itself. Husqvarna Group has since then manufactured almost 200,000 robotic mowers is now offering its third generation of robotic mowers with the Husqvarna Automower® and Gardena R40Li ranges.

Positec, founded in 1994, is a global company engaged in the manufacture and marketing of power tools, lawn and garden equipment and accessories, which are sold around the world to professional contractors and home improvement enthusiasts. Since its founding in 1994, Positec has achieved industry-leading growth and employs almost 4,000 people in 12 countries to become a truly global competitor in the power tool industry.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Robotic Lawn Mowers 2012

IFR projects that sales of all types of domestic robots (vacuum cleaning, lawn-mowing, window cleaning and other types) could reach over 9.8 million units in the period 2011-2014, with an estimated value of US$4.3 billion. 
Robotics lawn mowers represent the second largest category of domestic robots and the number of suppliers and models is increasing. About 200-250.000 robotic lawn mowers have been sold so far mainly by companies like market leader Swedish Husqvarna, Italian Zucchetti Robotica, Israelian Friendly Robotics, German Stihl and some others. New competitors from Asia are now entering the market with low price design copies to get their share of the growing gardencare market.  New marketing concepts have aslo been developed to defend and expand market positions in growing markets. 

Credit: Robot Buying Guide
In 2011 new modells have been introduced by Husqvarna/Gardena focusing on the growing number of elderly and small garden owners. In 2012 John Deere, the well known US manufacturer of gardening equipments has also entered into the robotic lawn mower market with the introduction of the John Deere Tango E5. Hong Kong based Positec Industrial has introduced the Landroid robotic lawn mower in 2010 and is now selling in several European countries. 

Husqvarna Automower 305
With more than 130.000 sold units Swedish Husqvarna is the world leader in robotic lawn mowers, with the widest range on the 
market. The largest Automower® model can handle up to 6,000 square meters of lawn and can send text messages to its owner’s cell phone.

New: According a press release May 24, 2012 the Husqvarna Group has manufactured almost 200,000 robotic mowers since starting in 1995.

Sales growth for Automower® during the first ten years was slow until sales began to accelerate after 2005. The most successful markets in terms of volume are Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. During 2011, the offering has been expanded with Automower® 305, a model for small gardens with lawns up to 500 square meters. The recommended retail price of the Husqvarna Automower 305 is EUR 1490:- ($ 1999)

Gardena R40Li
In autumn 2011 Gardena, owned by Husqvarna, released its first robotic lawn mower, R40Li, a modified version of the Husqvarna Automower 305, launched in spring 2011. The R40Li mows a lawn area up to a maximum of 400 sqm and when required, the robotic mower recharges itself at the charging station. Its easy-to-place boundary wire shows the R40Li where to mow. It repeatedly cuts grass tips with razor-sharp blades; grass clippings remain on the lawn as a natural fertiliser (mulch principle). The cutting height of 2 to 5 cm can be easily set with a rotary knob.  With a weight of 8 kg, the robust robotic mower tackles inclines up to 25 %. Programming is incredibly simple and quick. Different mowing times or days can be set on the large selection panel and display. Following the menu is easy and intuitive. After programming, the R40Li starts on its own at the set times, even when it rains. The powerful and easy-care lithium-ion 18 V /1.6 Ah battery ensures reliable and energy-saving operation. The R40Li also works very quietly and without emissions. Highly sensitive collision sensors and the boundary wire help the R40Li to avoid obstacles in the garden. Lift and tilt sensors, and a large space between the housing and blades, guarantee additional safety for people and animals. For example, when the mower is lifted, the blades immediately stop and thereby prevent injuries. The robotic mower can also be stopped at any time with the large, easy-to-access stop button. R40Li is flexible and therefore well suited for nearly any garden type, as well as for example secondary areas. The robotic mower is supplied with a charging station, a power cable, boundary wire, staples, spare blades, couplers and connectors. 
Recommended retail price EUR 1349:-

New competitors entering the European market

John Deer TANGO E5 lawn mower
Credit: John Deere, Tango E5
John Deere, the well known US manufacturer of gardening equipments has also entered into the robotic lawn mower market with the introduction of the John Deere Tango E5. The 15,3 kg heavy robot is designed for large private gardens up to 1800 sq m (19,400 sq ft) and has a pretty competitive features list. It uses perimeter wires to detect the area, and bounces randomly between borders and objects on the lawn. The Tango E5 is equipped with all the necessary sensors, like lift, tilt and bumper sensor, and has a pin code and loop lock feature to prevent theft. The robot is powered with a 36V 2600 mAh lithium-ion battery that lasts for about an hour. After a 90 minutes long recharging period the John Deere Tango E5 can resume mowing until the scheduled mowing period is over. Cutting height can be adjusted between 2 and 10 cm (0.7-4 in), while the 30 cm (12 in) cutting with provides efficiency. Recommended retail price: UK £2,092 (~$3,330), Sweden SEK 22.250:-

Credit: Worx, Landroid
The Landroid is promoted via Internet as "Unmanned Mowing Vehicle from Worx incorporates" a Eco-friendly and low maintenance mowing solution. The 14,7 kg heavy Landroid is powered by a 24V sealed, lead-acid battery, and  returns to the charging station when battery needs recharging. 
User interface with an LED operation display simplifies use.

Swedish Retail Store Jula is selling Landroid for SEK 8995:- (~$1249)

Global Garden Products - Stiga Autoclip
Credit: GGP, Stiga Autoclip
In January 2012 Italian Global Garden Products announced the acquisition of the entire quota capital of the company LiCo srl and the Lizard brand. Following this acquisition, Global Garden Products (GGP) and Zucchetti Centro Sistemi (ZCS) have signed a long term strategic cooperation to jointly strengthen both their positions in robotic lawn mowing solutions in Europe and overseas.

ZCS will continue to be fully active in its different markets as the innovative expert for robotic solutions with its brands as Ambrogio and Wiper whereas GGP will market the robotic lawn mowers as an integral part of its leading brands but foremost under the Stiga brand.

Stiga is offering three series Stiga Autoclip 100 (0 – 800 sqm), Stiga Autoclip 500 (1.900 – 3.500 sqm) och Stiga Autoclip 700 (4.000 sqm) in the price range SEK 12.500 (~$1741) to SEK 40.000:- $5574:-). The most compact model manages a 400 m2 lawn, handles slopes up to 50 % and requires no installations. The larger one handles up to 4,000 m2 but calls for a bit more preparation.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sharp Robotic Cleaner

Japanese Sharp has released a new robotic cleaner called Cocorobo. The robotic cleaner model TX-V100 has voice recognition functionality, infrared sensors for avoiding obstacles and a built-in camera for remote control. Cocorobo will be available in Japan in June.

Mind-controlled robot arms

Two people who are unable to move their limbs have been able to guide a robot arm to reach and grasp objects using only their brain activity, a paper in Nature reports. The work is part of the BrainGate2 clinical trial, led by John Donoghue, director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science in Providence. His team has previously reported a trial in which two participants were able to move a cursor on a computer screen with their thoughts.

The neuroscientists are working closely with computer scientists and robotics experts. The BrainGate2 trial uses two types of robotic arm: the DEKA Arm System, which is being developed for prosthetic limbs in collaboration with US military, and a heavier robot arm being developed by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) as an external assistive device.
In the latest study, the two participants were given 30 seconds to reach and grasp foam balls. Using the DEKA arm, Bob — who had his stroke in 2006 and was given the neural implant five months before the study —- was able to grasp the targets 62% of the time. Cathy had a 46% success rate with the DEKA arm and a 21% success rate with the DLR arm. She successfully raised the bottled coffee to her lips in four out of six trials.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

iRobot Market Shares 2012

Credit: iRobot, Scooba 230
At the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology Conference in Boston market leader in consumer robotics iRobot presented some data about the global market for vacuum cleaning robots. iRobot has sold over 7.5 million home robots so far and is currently selling in over 45 countries around the world and expanding.
iRobot estimates the annual value of the global market of vacuum cleaners (>$200 USD retail prices) to $5,75 billion. The global market share of robotic vacuums is 12% ($M 680) and of that iRobot accounts for 10% ($M 551). iRobots market share in the US and Canada is estimated to 8% of $1,75 billion market, while other Robotic vacuums account for 3%. The EMEA market is valued $2,1 billion and iRobot's market share to 13%, other robotics vacuums account for 8%. At the $1,7 billion Asia Pacific market iRobot has a market share of 8% and other robotics vacuums 4%. At the $200 million Latin America market iRobot has a market share of 1%.
Strong Growth for Home Robots 
iRobot expects strong growth in 2012 for home robots that will account for 75% ov total revenue in  the range $M 465-485. The company is targeting well-defined customers such as the 500 million modern professionals aged 25-54, who are technology savvy, clean their home >twice/week and have a cat or dog at home.  iRobot is driving home robot growth in 2012 with the new Scooba 230  floor washing robot and the Roomba 700 vacuum cleaning robot.

Honda Uni-Cub Personal Mobilty

Credit: Honda 2012
Honda has unveiled a new personal mobility device called Uni-Cub, that lets people roll around indoor environments on a single wheel. The Uni-Cub is a new version of the previous U3-X personal mobility technology. The Uni-Cub uses two wheels; the front uses an Omni Traction Drive system that goes forward and back and side to side. A smaller rear wheel helps the Uni-Cub turn in place.Its electric motor drives it up to almost 4 miles an hour, with a range of 5,9 km (3,7 miles), with a top speed of 6 km. The balancing technology in the Uni-Cub is also used for Honda's Asimo robot.
Credit: Honda 2009
Starting in June 2012, Honda will jointly conduct demonstration testing of UNI-CUB with Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. In addition to testing the feasibility of using UNI-CUB indoors, this project will explore the practical applications of the device in a wide range of environments in Japan and other countries. Some reactions in social media: Digital Trends Natt Garun warns that "Honda UNI-CUB mobility device will definitely make us all obese", while Cnet´s Wayne Cunnigham reports that "Honda Uni-Cub promotes our fat, lazy future".
The video below shows Honda's vision of the mobilized society, where people move around in offices and shopping malls by sitting on Uni-cubs.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Open Source Robotics Network - OSRF

Leading members of the global robotics community  committed to open-source robotics and relevant experience in the field have founded Open Source Robotics Foundation, Inc. (OSRF) an independent non-profit organization, robot company Willow Garge recently announced. The mission of OSRF is to support the development, distribution, and adoption of open source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development. OSRF is initially funded by Willow Garage and  the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Dr. Brian Gerkey, Director of Open Source Development at Willow Garage since 2008 will leave the company to become the foundation’s CEO. Joining Gerkey on the Board of Directors are Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard, University of Freiburg, Germany and head of the Laboratory for Autonomous Intelligent Systems (AIS);  Ryan Gariepy, co-founder and CTO of Clearpath Robotics a robot maker in Kitchener, Ontario; Ms. Helen Greiner, a co-founder of iRobot and currently CEO of CyPhyWorks. Greiner serves also as the elected President and Board Member of the Robotics Technology Consortium (RTC), a non-profit organization established to speed the creation and deployment of ground robotics technology and Sam Park, executive vice president of Yujin Robot, South Korea.

One of the first initiative of OSRF will be ROSCon 2012, the ROS Developers Conference, and proceeds from the conference go to OSRF. The inaugural ROSCon will take place immediately following ICRA 2012  (May 19th – 20th) in St. Paul, MN.

The foundation’s next project will be to participate in the latest Robotics Challenge organized by the  DARPA. The agency plans to award up to $34 million to teams that can demonstrate robots with advanced disaster-response capabilities, and it’s anticipated that many teams will use ROS to program their robots or Gazebo to simulate their performance before sending them into the field.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Future of Industrial Assembly

KUKA vision of robot-based assembly 
KUKA, the leading German manufacturer of industrial robots, develops a new generation of robots, with small footprint and for new applications due to expanded performance capabilities. Integrated software simplifies programming and start-up. The video below shows some vision of how assembly tasks might be performed by robots in the not so distant future. Key technical challenges are force controlled motion, real-time robot synchronization and multi-robot coordination. The application is completely programmed in Java, using the software stack developed in the SoftRobot project in cooperation with Augsburg University and MRK Systeme GmbH.

Motoman dual-arm robot concept

In 2005 Japanese Yaskawa was first to introduce the 13-axis dual-arm MOTOMAN DA20 robot with humanlike flexibility of movement. In 2007 Japanese Yaskawa unveiled a new generation industrial robot, "MOTOMAN-SDA10" which can shift work that has been performed by humans.The video below shows the latest version of a Motoman dual arm robot with 3D vision performing the assembly of cart wheels. The robot is using a Robotiq adaptive gripper at the end of each of its arms to pick up various parts and tools used in the assembly of the wheels.

ABB vision of robot-based assembly
The ABB concept robot FRIDA was created in response to requests from ABB Robotics’ existing customer base to develop robotic solutions for manufacturing environments in which humans and robots would be able to work together. FRIDA stands for Friendly Robot for Industrial Dual-Arm Assembly. The 14-axis, dual arm robot is the initial output from ABB Corporate Research’s initiative for industries requiring new and innovative solutions for their small part assembly operations.

FRIDA is part of the FP7 research project ROSETTA aimed at evaluating new robotic solutions for modern manufacturing concepts. ROSETTA develops “human-centric” technology for industrial robots that will not only appear more human-like, but also cooperate with workers in ways that are safe and perceived as natural. Such robots will be programmed in an intuitive and efficient manner, making it easier to adapt them to new tasks when a production line is changed to manufacture a new product.
FRIDA is aimed for small parts assembly applications in consumer electronics industry and other market sectors. FRIDA includes a flexible gripper, camera-based part location plus all the features that are well known from ABB's state-of-the-art robot controller, the IRC5. In addition, the robot is compact and intended to fit into spaces ergonomically designed for human workers. This allows the robot to be easily interchanged with a human coworker when the production order is changed or a new layout is required.

US Industrial Robot Visions
New industrial robot concepts have been announced by Heartland Robotics and recently also by Redwood Robotics, a joint venture between Meka Robotics, Willow Garage, and SRI International.

Boston-based Heartland Robotics, founded by Rodney Brooks, former Director of the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and a co-Founder of iRobot Corporation, has high ambitions to drive a new economic reality, making it more competitive to manufacture products in the US, Europe, and Japan, rather than outsourcing to low-cost regions. According to some public sources, Heartland is developing a family of low cost and highly intelligent robots that can perform simple tasks in a manufacturing environment, increasing the productivity of the people around them who are doing the more highly skilled and value-added work. Heartland’s robots can be taken out of the box, taught a task by an untrained factory worker, and be productive in a few hours, eliminating the need for systems integration. They are safe to interact with people at close range and are easy to train and retrain on the fly. It is claimed that "they are nothing like any existing industrial robots. Heartland Robotics is revolutionizing manufacturing robots, and the very nature of what people think a robot can do and be."

Redwood Robotics claims it will enable the personal and service robot markets through a new generation of robot arms that are simple to program, inexpensive, and safe to operate alongside people.

    2012 Q1 Record Orders for German Kuka

    German industrial robot manufacturer KUKA reports record orders and dubble earnings after taxes for the first quarter 2012. 
    Credit: KUKA 2012
    Consolidated orders received reach a new record of EUR 602,6 million, up 51,8% from the year prior. Both divisions report highest ever orders received in a single quarter.
    Sales revenue increased +12,5% from the prior year to EUR 367,3 million. EBIT margin of 6% was significantly higer than the year prior. Robotics' 10,4% exceeds target margin and Systems rises to 4,4%.
    Earning after taxes double to EUR 10,8 million.
    The sales forecast for 2012 is about EUR 1,5 billion and EBIT margin is expected to be 5,5 to 6%.
    Credit: KUKA Light Weight Robots
    KUKA's business focus 2012 will be to secure market share increase for robotics division and to reduce business risk for systems division.

    The long term strategi is to safeguard automotive business, increase general industry business and strengthen global positioning. In advanced robotics KUKA plans to increase revenues in the health care segment and to enter the market for service robotics. KUKA expects a high margin potential in health care and service robotics including robotics for radio therapy, diagnosis, minimal invasive surgery, and rehabilitation.

    KUKA is market leader in robotics for the automotive industry, with a 50% market share in Europe. In general industry KIKA is among top 5 with a market share around 7% and among top 3 in Europe with around 15% marketshare.  

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    $25M for UK robotics

    UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, annonced at the official opening of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England, the funding for 22 exciting university-based research projects.
    The BRL is home to a community of 70 academics and businesses who are leading current thinking in nouvelle and service robotics, intelligent autonomous systems and bio-engineering. Over £1.65 million has been spent on the new facilities. The total area of the BRL is circa 2,400 sqm, with over 300 metres of specialised laboratory space and two Flying Arenas.
    Thanks to a major partnership between the government and industry UK robotics research will receive £16million ($25M) to develop smart machines that think for themselves. This research includes safe ways of monitoring in dangerous environments such as deep sea installations and nuclear power plants, 'nursebots' that assist patients in hospitals, and aerial vehicles that can monitor national borders or detect pollution.
    Led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and an eight-strong group of partners, the investment has over £4M in support from industry. This will include access to specialist laboratories, equipment, expertise and advice on commercialisation and industrialisation. The partners are BAE Systems, Schlumberger, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Sellafield Ltd, Network Rail, SCISYS, DSTL and the UK Space Agency.

    Monday, May 07, 2012

    1 Billion Automation Challenge

    Credit: RD/OpiFlex
    Sweden is planing to boost its manufacturing industry by providing 1000 productivity studies, which may result in 1 billion Swedish Krona robotics and automation investments!
    The new initiative called Automation Challenge is launched by Swedish Robotdalen, a 200 million SEK public and private funded innovation cluster. Since its inception in 2003, Robotdalen completed more than 200 studies on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in manufacturing industries to explore and facilitate business opportunities to invest in automation and robotics solutions. So far, preliminary studies resulted in investments of over 200 million SEK. Companies with new robotic solutions report productivity increases of 10-30 percent. Until 2015 Robotdalen plans to spread the concept across the country.
    The Automation Challenge also includes an increased focus in product development. Together with leading robot developers, system integrators and component suppliers Robotdalen will support manufacturing SMEs to investigate and develop demonstrator projects, pilot installations and experimental product development. Robotdalen has also ambitions to realize more ideas of  new robot applications for even more flexible and efficient production.

    Industrial Robotic AGV 
    One solution promoted by Robotdalen is Opiflex, a mobile industrial robot platform, developed at Malardalen university college. Opiflex has a patented mechanical dock and a compact docking station, which ensures mechanical stability, power and signal transmission between the robot and station. The mechanical stability is measured with very good repeat accuracy.
    OpiFlex can move between machines and workstations as an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) and meets all safety requirements for AGV vehicles. Navigation is via magnetic loop and RFID. The platform is based on conventional industrial technology that provides a robust solution.