Following the need to develop robots capable of interacting naturally and safely with humans without the need of barriers, the Sharework project has developed a flexible software comprised with 14 technology modules to provide robots with the necessary intelligence to work in cooperation with human operators.
Sharework collaborative robotics system is capable of understanding the environment and human actions through knowledge, sensors and future-state predictions, as well as able of making the robot act accordingly with the final goal to drive collaborative work between operators and robots and, thereby, boost process productivity and improve operators’ ergonomics.
The collaborative robotics solution is currently being tested at partners facilities to validate the technology in a controlled laboratory environment, a necessary step before implementing Sharework in four real environment industrial scenarios in the automotive, railway, metal and capital goods industry, acting as case studies of the project.
These activities are serving as a preliminary benchmark for the developed collaborative software. The Sharework system comprises 14 modules in the areas of perception, motion planning, safety and security and human-robot communications and human factors.
Figure 1: One of Sharework’s industrial mock-ups, simulating Goizper Group’s use case
Each software module, e.g., a piece of software to provide the robot with knowledge on where the humans are located to avoid collisions with the robot, is tested individually, followed by a full integration of all modules. This ensures that the technology works as expected and facilitates the transition from the initial mock-up phase to the final demonstrators at end-user premises.
Partners demonstrated successfully the functioning of the task and motion planning, human-aware motion-planning, and use-case-aware augmented-reality interfaces.
Task- and motion-planning test
The software was tested in a scenario where the robot must pick mechanical parts and place them in two outbound boxes for the whole process. This experiment is challenging from the motion planning point of view because the robot has to plan the movements on the fly (i.e., right before their execution), choose the picking order and where to place the objects.
Sharework outputs were also validated in a use-case where the robot has been asked to perform a sequence of screwing operations.
In both experiments, the robot has proven itself capable of executing the requested high-level tasks, making the right decisions and optimising the movements, in order to achieve the objectives.
Human-aware motion-planning test
Partners also tested how a robot with integrated Sharework software perceives the human through camera data and plans its movements to avoid collisions with operators. The experiment consisted of asking the robot to work on the same workstation as the operator avoiding any collision with the human and stopping when a safe motion is not possible. The test helped verify that the frequency at which the human is captured, and the quality of the tracking data produced is sufficient for the proper functioning of the robotics planner, offering a stable robot behaviour.
Sharework multimodal augmented reality interface for Human-Robot and Robot-Human interaction provides the operator with information on robot’s planned and executed trajectories, as well as visual information on the tasks to be performed by the human operator.
The interface and necessary hardware, such as Augmented-Reality glasses, has been tested with multiple individuals, showing a quick adaptation to the system and proving to be intuitive and a good help to accelerate the learning of the productive process.
Experiments performed at lab scale have demonstrated the seamless integration of the tested technology in diverse manufacturing scenarios including assembly and disassembly tasks. Lab scale preliminary test results provide confidence on the potential of the developed technology for improving the efficiency of manufacturing processes while guaranteeing the safety of the worker.
Once lab tests will be concluded the mock-ups will be moved and replicated in end-users’ facilities, where additional testing will be performed in a real environment.