TUV Austria Bureau of Inspection & Certification Fraunhofer Austria, and Joanneum Research set up an exemplary human-robot collaboration system at TU Vienna’s Pilot Factory Industry 4.0 (Pilotfabrik Industrie 4.0) Aspern. The insights gained provide valuable incentives for future industrial production processes. It has become impossible to imagine the economy of the future without the cooperation of humans and robots. In contrast to earlier trends favouring unattended production automation, today, it is about optimum designs for production systems with combinations of humans and machines.
In such Human Robot-Collaboration (HRC), each participant plays a part in their unique abilities. Humans score with their methodology, intuition, flexibility, faculties, and problem-solving orientation, while machines do so with high repetition accuracy, force, and precision as well as with more documentation.
Both together not only increase production efficiency but also ensure an additional boost in quality. TUV Austria Bureau of Inspection & Certification, Fraunhofer Austria, and Joanneum Research contribute specific know-how regarding risk assessment in terms of machinery safety, IT security, production management, and production logistics, as well as metrological assessment of HRC systems. TU Vienna’s Industry 4.0 Pilot Factory (Industrie 4.0 Pilotfabrik) enables the testing and research of new product concepts in a protected, low-risk environment.
Safety plays an essential role in the process. Christoph Schwald, corporate innovation manager of TUV AUSTRIA: “Efficiency enhancement and quality improvement can only be successfully implemented in HRC applications if appropriate safety systems are allowed for. Safety must be taken into consideration comprehensively, meaning both functional safety and information security. In an Industry 4.0 context, IT security and machinery safety grow together entirely.”
More in it for the economy
The findings of the tests are transferred directly to industry and business. Fabian Ranz from Fraunhofer Austria: “In addition to the safety aspects, the biggest challenges are not only to ensure technical feasibility but also to guarantee the economic efficiency of the processes. Only then will we achieve a point at which industry will be ready to put the principles we are exploring here into practice.” Michael Hofbaur is setting up a robotics research centre for Joanneum Research.
The researcher introduces the expertise available there to the metrological assessment of HRC systems. “With our findings, we are providing additional added value for the Pilotfabrik in Aspern. Robotics requires specific knowledge, in assembling parts, for instance. We create safe and secure applications through appropriate configurations.”
Production of the future
Robotics has made significant progress in recent years and is constantly evolving. The experts at TUV AUSTRIA, Fraunhofer, and Joanneum Research emphasize that science and technology partners need to develop solutions for dealing with safety and security concerns and risk issues.