Industry 4.0 with the KMR iiwa, controlled via tablet pc

Industrie 4.0 at KUKA

Industrie 4.0 will have the same disruptive consequences for industrial production as the Internet has had for communication. That is why, for some years now, KUKA has been pushing back the frontiers in the future-oriented fields of human-robot collaboration (Cobotics) and mobility. Mobile cobots already respond intelligently to their surroundings and are suitable for universal operation. The robotic coworker is reality at KUKA.

KUKA robots: “Industrie-4.0-ready”

In addition to the functions of normal industrial robots, the next generation of intelligent machines is endowed with all the capabilities that characterize cyber-physical systems in the Internet of Things. Moreover, they incorporate additional intelligence, enabling them to control their motions with greater precision, for example. KUKA calls robots with these capabilities “Industrie-4.0-ready”. 

The vision behind the next industrial revolution networks humans and machines in production and requires maximum flexibility of systems. For many years now, KUKA has been working on realizing this vision – and is at the heart of the action: intelligent machines, such as cobots and platforms that only distantly resemble our image of industrial robots, already exist. They collaborate directly with humans, or they are mobile, or they combine both of these capabilities. And they use knowledge from the cloud.

KMR iiwa in operation in KUKA’s production shops

The KMR iiwa mobile platform demonstrates Industrie 4.0 in KUKA’s production shops.

Mobile robotics at KUKA

In Industrie 4.0, intelligent, mobile units act independently. Robots on mobile platforms move around autonomously and find their destination by themselves. They align themselves with the workpiece with millimeter precision, or they simply invert conventional sequences: for example, the robot moves to the workpiece rather than the other way round.

Mobile automation solutions, such as the KMP omniMove from KUKA, permit unrestricted maneuverability in every direction and enable the robot to rotate about its own axis. The vehicle can be navigated freely via its omnidirectional wheels, without re-orienting the wheels, and steered by remote control in any direction, even in the tightest of spaces. The logistics area required is up to 50 percent less than for conventionally-steered wheels.

The KMP omniMove vehicles for internal logistics effortlessly lift payloads from 100 kilograms to 100 tonnes. With ten different vehicle variants, they offer numerous customer-specific options packages for different requirements, including autonomous navigation and fleet management.

KUKA cobots: HRC with the LBR iiwa

With the LBR iiwa in 2014, KUKA laid the foundation for a new relationship between humans and robots in Industrie 4.0: direct and safe collaboration without a safety enclosure. As a component of the smart factory, the LBR iiwa is able to learn from its human colleagues thanks to its sensitive technology. Connected to the cloud, it can autonomously check, optimize and document the results of its work.

Intelligent cobots like the LBR iiwa are tapping new fields for automation: they load machines and logistics systems, assemble gear units and much more besides. They are able to detect tolerances in workpiece positioning, for example, or to recognize the component type.

In the factory of the future, the range of potential applications is virtually infinite. The LBR iiwa proves that the visions of Industrie 4.0 can be implemented in reality. Robots are already working hand in hand with humans and expanding their range of capabilities, enabling them to work more efficiently and ergonomically, and with greater precision and concentration.

Industrie 4.0 at KUKA: the LBR iiwa enables direct collaboration between robots and humans.

Mobility meets human-robot collaboration

The next step for Industrie 4.0 is mobile cobots: these robots respond intelligently to their surroundings and are also able to move around autonomously.

The KUKA spectrum of mobile cobots ranges from lightweight robots that can be moved manually to autonomously navigating systems, such as the KMR iiwa. This new generation of mobile robotics has a wide range of applications: mobile robots already perform logistics tasks autonomously and work directly together with humans. Even deployment in offices or service departments is conceivable.

Mobile cobots suitable for industrial applications, such as the KUKA KMR iiwa, are breaking down the existing boundaries for robotics in the production environment. They are equipped with SLAM navigation, dispensing with the need for static floor markings, induction loops and magnets for defining the paths. The robots independently draft maps of their surroundings and share this knowledge with other units in the fleet. This results in a networked, shared “motion and route plan” that allows the coordinated execution of all robot motions.

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