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From "satellite" to "space station"

Application examples for the new generation of cooperating robots are set to fire the visitors’ imagination

30 June 2004

Augsburg/Munich, June 2004 – The KUKA Robot Group is introducing visitors to a whole new dimension of innovative robotic technologies at AUTOMATICA. KUKA’s futuristic booth in Hall A3 is host to a wide range of technical highlights. Europe’s leading manufacturer of industrial robots is presenting, among other attractions, not just one, but two “RoboTeams”, KUKA’s latest technological innovation in the field of cooperating robots. They impressively demonstrate the advantages of this unique technology, which is based on an entirely new programming philosophy.

It is not the motion of the individual robots that is programmed, instead attention is focused on the workpiece to be processed. This was the basic concept of the KUKA Robot Group in the development of the “RoboTeam”. The company is presenting its new technology at AUTOMATICA in an abstract manner. The aim is to fire the visitors’ imagination by consciously avoiding industry-specific applications. At the same time, this approach demonstrates that cooperating robots are opening up a whole new range of individual applications – with limitless scope in terms of workpieces and tools.

In the “KUKA space station”, a synchronized “RoboTeam” comprising three different robot types maneuvers long Plexiglas tubes. In a defined rhythm, the robots tilt the tubes and join them together so that a ball rolls from one tube to the next. The robot with the tube that is momentarily not being used reconnects it at the end of the sequence, thus creating a process of perpetual motion in which the ball appears to be moving weightlessly in space, always in the same plane, and never coming to rest. Both the composition of the groups within the team and the motion control in the individual groups change dynamically. A fourth robot simulates a joining process connecting the tubes. 

The attraction of the “KUKA satellite” application lies in the synchronized 3-dimensional motion of five robots and a linear unit. Four of the robots, standing in a row, use individual tubes to construct a larger, twisting tube. Motion control also changes dynamically within this group. The fifth robot, mounted on a linear unit, moves along the group and guides a ring over the tubes. Synchronized sequences for adjusting the grip serve to reduce interference contours significantly.