The feeding of parts from bulk supply to production lines is a common task in industrial automation. One example of this is the feeding of energy chain links to a chain assembly machine, the addressed use case supplied by the end user igus® GmbH. Existing solutions to part feeding, such as vibratory bowl feeders and robotic pickers require specialized engineering for each product variant and are hence not flexible enough for the use case of energy chain assembly. The goal of the project is the development of a flexible assembly cell for energy chains with a lightweight cable-driven robolink® manipulator feeding parts to the existing assembly machines. The developed solution shall be cost-effective and easy to use. Product variant changes shall require only short reconfiguration times. The assembly cell shall operate in collaboration with human workers who will supply chain links and crossbars and remove and store mounted chain segments. These goals will be achieved by combining the scientific expertise of the research partner with the manufacturing knowledge of the end user by addressing the following objectives:
- State-of-the art methods for part detection, pose estimation, and grasp and manipulation planning will be further developed and adapted to the use case.
- Skill transfer methods that are based on non-rigid registration of 3D part models will be used to address part variability.
- Safe human-robot collaboration will be achieved by using an inherently safe, lightweight compliant cable-driven robot arm and by means of 3D workspace supervision and human detection.
- Fast cycle times will be achieved by acceleration computations with a GPU and by model-predictive control of the robot manipulator.
- The developments will be demonstrated in a free-style task of energy chain assembly, showcased, and thoroughly evaluated in pilot installations.
The robot manipulator will work without fences in close collaboration with a human worker who will provide parts and remove and store assembled energy chain segments.