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KUKA robocoaster make the move to LEGOLAND

KUKA robots out in force

February 17, 2003

The countdown is running: on Wednesday, 19 February 2003, ten Robocoasters from KUKA Roboter GmbH, manufactured by its subsidiary, KUKA Systec GmbH, make the trip from Günzburg, Germany to the Danish town of Billund. These robust machines, all of them six-axis heavy-duty robots with a carrying capacity of 500 kilograms, will make the LEGO Company’s longest-running amusement park even more attractive; LEGOLAND Billund is already the most popular tourist attraction in Denmark outside of Copenhagen.

Taking a ride on a robot is sure to become one of the highlights at LEGOLAND. After all, the Robocoaster is the first robot in the world to be approved for carrying human passengers. In its gondola there is space for two seated persons. For this test of courage, the passengers can choose from a wide range of ride profiles and speeds, varying from gentle to extreme. Naturally, the robots can only take up their work as amusement park rides after passing all of the necessary safety inspections.

One of the main arguments in favor of the Robocoaster was the way that the six-axis robots fit in with the LEGO “Hands-on, minds-on” philosophy, the purpose of which, as the central element in the planning and design of LEGOLAND Parks, is to promote creativity. “Hands-on, minds-on” stands for a unique mix of entertainment and educational benefits, creativity, fun, and learning through playing. With regard to the Robocoaster, this means that the visitors can determine their own fun factor, an important difference from other rides where you simply get in and go where the ride takes you.

First the vistor goes to a TFT screen linked to the Robocoasters. There he or she chooses from a large selection of symbolic LEGO bricks, each of which represents a particular motion sequence, in order to interactively create an individual, 90 second long program. A chip card with the selected sequence is then inserted into the controller of the corresponding Robocoaster before the ride begins.
The LEGO Company considers the Robocoaster’s flexibility to be another decisive advantage over conventional amusement park rides. For example, new sequences can be programmed as desired via the PC-based KUKA controller, and these can be used to update the LEGO software. In the future it might even be possible to integrate joysticks and virtual reality helmets.

Another feature which sets the KUKA Robocoaster apart from other rides is its modular structure, which makes it possible to add more robots at any time. In contrast, changing the number of cars or the track length of a roller coaster would involve major additional expenditure.

Cooperation between the LEGO Company and KUKA Roboter is envisioned as a collaborative partnership on a worldwide scale. KUKA is counting on making a good impression in Billund in order to gain an “admission ticket” to the other LEGOLAND Parks. Attesting to the strength of this relationship is the record speed with which the project in Billund was implemented. In November 2002, when the LEGO Company placed an order for the robots, the space reserved for the Robocoasters was still an empty field. By the middle of February 2003, however, the systems had already been installed. Consider also that the LEGO company only first learned of the existence of six-axis robots in September 2002. Regardless of this, just two months later the company decided in favor of the Robocoasters and a real world premiere.

KUKA Roboter GmbH is a subsidiary of IWKA Aktiengesellschaft and ranks among the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial robots. Its core competencies are the development, production and sale of industrial robots, controllers, software and linear units. In 2002, the company achieved total sales of more than 250 million euro, with an output in excess of 7,500 robots.