Human control system speeds robot programming

VTT has developed a quick-control system for industrial robots that it says slashes the programming time for industrial robots, enabling the use of automation in short production runs of single-item products. Using this system, it is claimed that the time required for programming a robot has been reduced to minutes rather than hours.

Tapio Heikkilä, principal scientist at VTT, said: “The new solution significantly enhances the efficiency of productive operations and opens up new opportunities for utilising robots.”

The control system features two force/torque sensors, when traditionally robotic systems have one or none at all.The purpose of a force/torque sensor is to recognise pressure on the tool.In the VTT solution, another sensor is attached to a wireless control stick by which the robot can be steered through the operation step by step.

The control stick and the control system operating in real time make it possible for a human controller to work in the same working space with the robot and control the robot's movements directly using a control stick attached to the robot or the load.

"The interactive solution makes it possible to take advantage of the human observation capacity for carrying out the required task," Heikkilä added.

Quick programming of robots and human-robot interaction are predicted to become important features in the industrial internet era, when flexible production and short runs are essential competitive assets for companies.

"When the customer has a versatile range of single-item products to process, efficient partial automation may be a competitive solution," Heikkilä explained.

VTT’s system is suited to tasks requiring a high level of expertise, where the robot does the hard work and the operators do the brainwork.

The solution is also said to enable service models to become more common in the industrial internet era. The data measured from the sensors of the robot can be stored in a cloud service, which makes it possible to run different analyses as a remote service.The robot's performance can also be monitored in real time through the internet.

VTT claims that the control solution can be applied to any robot with an open control interface. In addition to robot manufacturers, VTT expects its system to interest system suppliers and industries using robots.