An autonomous industrial mobile manipulator can be described by one word: flexibility. These robots are designed in order to be used in complex industrial development scenarios and are the result of combining between autonomous robots and manufacturing assistants with a high degree of flexibility for production lines.
To use these smart mobile manipulators we have to change the design of hardware and software. At this moment, an industrial robot is designed for a specific task. Combining a mobile platform with the advantages of a robotic arm, these mobile robots have to be programmed in order to complete more than one specific task. Looking ahead to the autonomous and mobile robots, the flexibility of these intelligent machines has to be done by the flexibility in thinking.
To increase the productivity in the industry, new techniques have to be implemented. While the each industry is different, mobile manipulators have to be based on advanced technologies and take the advantages provided by artificial intelligence. Some features are common on all of these robots and include systems like:
- mobile platform;
- system for vision;
- robotic manipulator;
- robot capable for working with different tools;
In the last years were felt an increased demand for intelligent robots capable of executing complex tasks and with unlimited workspace.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Let us take a look of advantages offered using mobile manipulators in manufacturing processes as well as disadvantages when these robots are used.
- robots can work in complex scenarios for industrial process;
- can be used existing industrial robots and other hardware components;
- mobile robots solve the problem of logistics;
- moving toward assistance;
- using sensors and powerful processing units the robots can be used in service-minded tasks like maintenance and cleaning;
- working 24/7 the robots increasing the productivity;
- the footprint on the ground is small and uses shared space;
- using algorithms and sensors the robots can work along humans;
- mobile platforms based on wheels may lose traction;
- as the complexity of robot is greater, the robot can malfunction and blocking the production process;
- high costs for maintenance and repair;
Autonomous Industrial Mobile Manipulators
In this section of the autonomous mobile robots article I make an overview of autonomous robotic manipulators designed to be about the manufacturing process in near future.
G-WAMDesigned by Robotnik and with an architecture based on ROS, G-WAM is one of the most advanced mobile manipulator. The robot combines the advantages of a mobile platform based on wheels with a robotic arm programmed to work with different objects and used in a wide range of tasks. G-WAM has an open-source software ready to be used in research or education purposes.
The platform is based on removable wheels combined with treads that can reach a speed of 3m/s. On platform is located the charging plugs, the headlights, connector panel, emergency stop buttons, and the system power panel.
One important part is the flexible arm with a maximum load capacity of 4 Kg and 7 degrees of freedom.
Amparo is out of autonomous mobile manipulation patterns, I can say that is out of our planet. This robot is designed for use in space for localization and objects transportation. Amparo robot works in a team, a team of two robots. One robot is designed to create a map of the environment and at the same time to identify and locate the objects detected on the surface. The result is a number of points marked on map. Amparo runs on all four all-terrain wheels where these objects are marked on the map and grasp the objects using the robotic arm. The arm has at one end a three fingers hand designed to grasp almost all types of objects.
Amparo is an autonomous robot with 2D, 3D vision, and a flexible arm with 6 degrees of freedom.
Little Helper history started in 2008 when the first version was released by the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering from Aalborg University in Denmark. The aim of the project is to create autonomous mobile manipulators in order to raise the flexibility of industrial processes, a shift from mass production to mass customization.
The eyes of the robot are sensors. The researchers were not stingy and added laser and ultrasonic sensors combined with adjustable lens video camera for safety and navigation.
The arm has six degrees of freedom and is an Adept industrial arm designed to be used with various tools.
Even is just a prototype, from Little Helper I have big expectations. The robot can run for almost eight hours without any break and when the battery is empty, the autonomous system drives the platform to recharge station.
Based on ROS software, youBot is a mobile autonomous platform with KUKA 7 DOF robotic arm. With omnidirectional wheels, the Neobotix MP-L655 can run in any direction. Using laser and ultrasonic sensors and a powerful vision Kinect RGBD camera, youBot is one of the most advanced autonomous manipulator designed for use in factories.
Researchers try to create a modular autonomous platform in order to add or remove components easily and with low costs. Kinect technology was integrated for gesture controls once this type of robot working along humans.
Maximum load capacity for KUKA arm is 20 kg and can run for up to 90 minutes.