Soon humans and robots can collaborate better

Sep 04, 2015 | Research/Cooperation

Fredrik Ore is doing research to enable closer collaboration between humans and robots at assembly stations in manufacturing industries. Above all this can lead to increased productivity and reduced physical workload. On 8 September he defended his licentiate thesis ”Human – industrial robot collaboration: simulation, visualisation and optimisation of future assembly workstations” at MDH.

 

Collaboration between humans and industrial robots, HIRC as it is known, implies great production opportunities for manufacturing industries. Despite this they seldom occur in the present circumstances since it poses a challenge in ensuring staff security. Furthermore no simulation tools exist as yet that are needed to design workplaces in which humans and industrial robots can interact. This is what Fredrik Ore would like to change.
A large part of the assembly work in industries today is done manually and therefore goes relatively slowly. Industrial robots are placed in cages since otherwise they constitute a danger to the staff, and they are turned off automatically when anyone comes near. Closer cooperation between robots and humans would be able to combine the strength and speed of the robot with the intelligence and flexibility of humans, he says.

By examining assembly stations in the manufacturing of heavy goods vehicles at Scania, Fredrik Ore has created a unique simulation programme which will optimise such collaboration. The programming has been carried out in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Chalmers Research Centre. Its software enables it to design, evaluate and develop workplaces and assembly stations in which humans and robots interact in the best possible way. Operational time, security and which transfers from machine to humans are the most ergonomic have been the focus for analysis.
With a simulation programme we can ensure that it will be right from the start, says Fredrik Ore.

The findings show that production time and physical workload for the staff in HIRC systems decreases in comparison with manual workplaces.
The development of production technicians is vital in global competition, and reduced physical workload also meets the challenges posed by population changes. In Western Europe the average age of working professionals is becoming increasingly higher, and for this reason it is also important to ensure a sustainable work environment, he says.

Fredrik Ore lives in Strängnäs and has a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Luleå University of Technology. He benefits from over 10 years of work experience in production questions, and he will continue to do research towards a doctoral degree in cooperation with Scania.
Today only I and the programmer can use the simulation software, but our hope is that in two years’ time the programme will be able to be used by a larger group, says Fredrik Ore.