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Reimagining the intelligence of collaborative robots

Source:International Metalworking News for Asia     Date:2022-10-22
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Nowadays, manufacturing business companies are turning to autonomous mobile robot (AMR) for help. AMRs have changed the automation landscape, especially in collaborative environments. They are thriving in numerous industries because they are becoming more reliable, user friendly and affordable.


Compared to traditionally automated environment, the use of AMRs can help improve the efficiency of logistics and supply chain operations of all sizes. From improving floor operations, transportation and processing to generating warehouse layout reports, AMR offers huge advantages for efficiency, growth, scalability and speed.


Global automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler was recently awarded the Red Dot: Best of the Best award for its Dual EXtendable (DEX), the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) project in the Red Dot Design Award under the Design Concept category.



According to Schaeffler, DEX was designed to reimagine the dexterity and intelligence of collaborative robots and their relationships with shopfloor employees. Featuring bi-directional leg extensions, WLAN and middleware integration, 2D/3D SLAM-based precise localisation, as well as speech and gesture recognition capabilities, DEX serves as a research testbed to infuse functionality with smart social behaviors to support and boost productivity in industrial settings for a wide range of tasks.


In an interview with International Metalworking News for Asia (IMNA) Mr. Han Boon Siew, Chief Information Officer Schaeffler Asia/Pacific, Director at Schaeffler Hub for Advanced Research, speaks more about DEX and AMR, and it research for improved industrial workplaces.


1.jpgIMNA: The rise of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) and the threat that might pose to jobs has been a debatable topic of conversation in the manufacturing supply chain in emerging countries in South East Asia. But what is the reality behind all these?

Han: With the shift in labour market trends, robots can fill in the gaps where there are labour shortages. This is especially beneficial in manufacturing roles where there may be high risk involved. AMRs help reduces safety risks and prevents human error. The need for close monitoring lessens as well.


As automation reshapes our manufacturing spaces, jobs will have to evolve in skillsets and competencies where new talents are needed to meet emerging needs. AMRs are inevitable, and supply chains need to rethink their strategy, embrace its benefits, and support their employees in this change. Instead of perceiving it as a threat, consider how to leverage new technology. How do we maximise and get the most out of our robots? How can it make us more competitive?


However, the future where AMRs become our new ‘co-workers’ still needs time. Most companies deploy AMRs as a means of research and trial. There still exist challenges to achieving a certain level of confidence. Especially in Human-Robot Applications, there continue to be limitations in the roll-out of AMRs – strict safety regulations, brownfield infrastructure and worker acceptance of solutions. The most significant challenge is the connectivity among different AMRs (intra-communication) and other machinery vehicles (inter-communication). Before we reach that future, we can grow and prepare ourselves.


IMNA: How can Dual Extendable (DEX) help manufacturers grow and develop new products that were once unachievable with previous robotics technology?

Han: One intrinsic relevance of DEX is the knowledge sharing of research from SHARE at NTU to derive solutions across our Industrial, Automotive Technologies and Automotive Aftermarket businesses. The extrinsic motivation is to provide value-added and disruptive technologies within the value chain of Industrial AMRs. These include research of new advanced product applications and digitalisation solutions that support the various businesses, such as developing advanced smart sensors based on novel research and using Artificial Intelligence.


IMNA: What are you expecting in the near future with DEX and AMR in mind?


Han: With DEX, the next AMR Technology Platform, we expect to create tomorrow’s technologies as part of Schaeffler’s SHARE at NTU program. Through this program, our team has developed an intelligent multi-talent robot platform for new products and product concepts. We see robotics as a prominent area of growth in supporting everyday living needs and spearheading the industry 4.0 revolution.


By combining our expertise in industrial components and systems engineering with our partners in the region, we look to advance the development of intelligent solutions and pave the way for future manufacturing industries.


With SHARE at NTU, we are leveraging Nanyang Technological University’s innovative technology competence and Schaeffler’s components and system expertise to develop advanced robotic applications. This includes cable-driven actuators for robotic arms with sensing technology, smarter Cobot integration, and efficient drive systems for AMRs. In addition, the project has been integrated into Schaeffler’s Innovation network through joint (academic/industry) research and is also connected to the relevant business units to ensure the industrial relevance of the activities.


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