Human-robot collaboration (HRC)

In human-robot collaboration, human and machine work hand in hand. The human operator controls and monitors production, the robots perform the physically strenuous work. Both contribute their specific capabilities: a decisive principle of Industrie 4.0.

Human-robot collaboration: the technology

In human-robot collaboration, the robot assists the human operator. This means: The machine does not replace the human, but complements his capabilities and relieves him of arduous tasks. These can include overhead work, for example, or the lifting of heavy loads. Autonomous, collaborative robots are also used to supply production workstations, including in KUKA’s own production facility.

In the factory of the future, there is no separation between automated and manual workstations. Humans and robots collaborate optimally – without separation and without safety fencing.

The HRC-capable LBR iiwa works hand in hand with humans.

HRC with the KUKA LBRs

KUKA has developed the first robots that are approved for human-robot collaboration (HRC): the KUKA LBR iisy and KUKA LBR iiwa. They use intelligent control technology, high-performance sensors and state-of-the-art software technologies – and thus enables fully new collaborative solutions in production technology. In this way, even the most difficult tasks that have previously been performed manually can now be automated cost-effectively.

HRC-capable robots such as the KUKA LBRs are rendered mobile and capable of performing different tasks flexibly using mobile platforms such as the KUKA flexFellow. They can thus be individually deployed at whatever location and for whatever purpose corresponds to your production requirements – dependent on the required batch size, for example. Furthermore, LBR iisy and LBR iiwa offer you maximum flexibility by means of so-called spontaneous automation: They optimally support you as an assistant in the case of workload peaks and resource bottlenecks in your production operations.

Video: Side by side with the robotic colleague at the BMW plant in Dingolfing

Although applied HRC is still a young field, it is one in which KUKA has already been able to acquire much practical experience and implement real solutions. Take BMW in Dingolfing, for example. Where in the past workers had to lift and join heavy bevel gears for front-axle gear units unaided, they now work together with their sensitive robot colleague, the LBR iiwa, hand in hand in confined spaces – entirely without safety fencing and in their customary surroundings.

HRC in practice: an employee at the BMW plant in Dingolfing working together with an LBR iiwa.

 Here you can find an overview of additional case studies on the topic of HRC.

Human-robot collaboration: the advantages

Human-robot collaboration is revolutionizing industrial production and manufacturing in the factory of the future and bringing decisive advantages:

  • Maximum flexibility in production
  • Relief of employees by performing ergonomically unfavorable work steps that could not previously be automated
  • Reduced risk of injuries and infections, for example with special HRC grippers
  • High-quality performance of reproducible processes – without requiring type-specific or component-relevant investment.
  • Increased productivity and improved system complexity thanks to integrated sensors
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