KUKA Innovation Award 2015

The winner of the KUKA Innovation Award 2015 has been announced: The research team from Italy was chosen as the winner at Hanover Fair. With their "ReTeLINK" development, they won the €20,000 competition.

The winners: Team ReTeLINK

The winners of the KUKA Innovation Award 2015 with their “ReTeLINK” solution.

The team comes from the Wearable Robotics Laboratory at the Institutio di BioRobotica of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Italy. They convinced the judges with their application, in which a data link is established between two flexible robot arms: the arm of the KUKA LBR iiwa and a newly developed upper arm exoskeleton (shoulder elbow). The sensor-guided exoskeleton, through which the joint angles of the shoulder and elbow are recognized, enables people to move the lightweight robot like their own arm. The motors of the exoskeleton reproduce the forces generated by the interaction of the LBR iiwa with its environment. This allows telepresence and rehabilitation applications to be implemented.

The winning team from the Biorobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa.

The challenge

The applicants had the task of developing a robot application in human-robot collaboration that would work in a realistic working environment. The international judges of experts selected the four best concepts from the 20 best applications. To ensure that the conditions are the same for all participants and that the applications can be compared fairly and directly, the application should be used in conjunction with the KUKA lightweight robot LBR iiwa, which KUKA made available to the participants free of charge for the duration of the competition.
The sensitive KUKA LBR iiwa is precise, compliant, flexible and equipped with mechanics and drive technology for industrial use. It can be used to automate sensitive and complex assembly tasks for which the use of robots was previously not possible. It is based on the human arm with seven axes and can be operated in position and compliance control mode. The LBR iiwa acts as the operator's "third hand" and thus opens up completely new application possibilities for the future without a safety fence.


The finalists

During the KUKA Innovation Award 2015, three other interesting projects dealing with human-robot collaboration and the LBR iiwa were also presented. Besides the winning team, the following projects were also in the running:

Team APPLE (Autonomous Picking and Palletizing): The project is carried out at the Center for Applied Autonomous Sensor Systems (AASS) at the University of Örebro in Sweden and provides a solution for the logistics sector. The team developed a mobile handling system in which the LBR iiwa was integrated. The system is able to automatically pick up empty pallets and navigate them to a desired location in the factory. Once there, the LBR iiwa picks up the requested products from a full pallet using an innovative infeed gripper and places them on the empty pallet.

Team CATCH (Compliant Articulated Robot Catching): The project team of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) presents the capture of irregularly shaped flying objects. The LBR iiwa is equipped with a gripping hand and programmed to catch an object that is thrown at it. The hand-arm system is adapted to the trajectory at lightning speed during capture, as otherwise the objects thrown would simply jump out of the palm of the hand before the robot can close its fingers.

Team ROBOCUT (Robots Decrypt the Human History): The team from the Archaeological Research Centre and Museum in Neuwied and the Agile and Dexterous Robotics Lab (ADRL) at ETH Zurich are working on how robots can decipher human history. In experimental archaeology, Stone Age tools are manufactured under controlled conditions and used experimentally. By comparing the microscopic traces on the stone tool of the experiment with those on real finds, statements can be made about the use of the real tool. In the RoboCut application, the lightweight robot LBR iiwa guides a stone tool over different materials and stores microscopic images of the cutting edge of the stone tool for later comparison with real tools.

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