High-precision drilling robot, amongst novelties at Machine-Tool Biennial

June 21, 2010

It is clear that the future of manufacturing and automation is sustained on two fundamental premises --portable machinery and cooperative robotics--, according to the Machine-Tool Biennial (BIEMH), held recently at the BEC Trade Fair Centre in Bilbao. The Industrial Systems Unit at Tecnalia demonstrated its latest technological advances at the BIEMH, including novelties related to these basic pillars -- besides those of unattended machinery, advanced processes of manufacture and intelligent machine.

Portable machines are a fundamental element in the new forms of industrial production, given their ability to move from one work zone to another by themselves. In this sphere, the Industrial Systems Unit at Tecnalia demonstrated the Roptalmu portable robot at the BIEMH, a machine developed from a shared-risk venture with Airbus España and winner of the international Strategic Manufacturing Awards, in the Innovation category.

Roptalmu is a light and portable robot the function of which is to drill high-precision holes in large parts and components for the aeronautics industry. This robot is one example of the wide experience of the Unit in developing portable machines -- the maximum exponent of a new paradigm in production.

This machine concept, given its characteristics, can be applied to very different sectors, such as aeronautics and shipbuilding, the construction industry or renewable energies and, in general, to all sectors which involve working with large-sized parts.

Cooperative robotics capable of interacting with persons

One of the working areas of the Unit is cooperative robotics, in which it is pioneer as regards the conception of innovative manufacturing systems involving a new generation of robots capable of carrying out tasks with persons. An example of this new robotics is the two-armed robot which introduces the basis of this future tendency, enabling, as it does, combining the typical features of a traditional robot (strength, rapidity, precision) with the intelligence and flexibility of persons.

This type of robotics is characterised by the operation of the robot in situations shared with persons in a reliable and safe manner. This tendency anticipates the coordinated use of articulated arms, with different sensors, largely based on artificial vision which gives it great capacity for movement in different situations and environments. It is able to adapt to changing conditions and interact with persons and other machines. Cooperative robotics also enables the reduction of workplace risks, because the robot can take on unhealthy and dangerous tasks with great precision.

3D vision system

As regards novelties presented in other spheres, notable amongst unattended/unmanned machinery was a robot that undertook advanced tasks in handling parts --afterwards, machine tools are fed with such parts--. This type of robot enables the total automation of production, as it can carry out tasks, substituting other traditional elements like conveyor belts, or elements carried out by intermediate operations, such as burring or inspection.

To carry out this task, the robot incorporates advanced sensors; concretely, it has a 3D vision system that enables the recognition of different parts laid out in a disordered manner for feeding a machine. This concept, known as unattended/unmanned machinery, represents a more flexible mode of manufacture and with a capacity to adapt to the changing needs of production.

The Industrial Systems Unit at Tecnalia has also developed advanced manufacturing processes, enabling the industry to manufacture high-performance functional products that are ecoefficient and safe. In this field, various materials machined with high-pressure jets of water with abrasive were demonstrated at the BIEMH, as well as a part which was welded using the innovative friction stir welding (FSW) technique, and also the employed angle tool (patent pending), and finally, a part made using incremental axisymmetric shaping.

As regards the sphere of intelligent machinery, examples of the Unit's skills in equipping manufacturing systems with intelligence were put on display. These involved services that enable machines to be sensitive to their surroundings, have decision-making capacity, adapt to changing conditions and help in complex tasks.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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