MERLIN wins the KUKA Innovation Award 2023

KUKA, a renowned industry leader in robotics and automation solutions, recently unveiled our team as the recipient of the KUKA Innovation Award for 2023. This prestigious accolade celebrates exceptional achievements in the field of robotics and automation, recognizing groundbreaking ideas that redefine technology and propel advancements across various industries.

Following an exhaustive selection process, a distinguished panel of judges meticulously evaluated a multitude of submissions from talented participants across the globe. Each entry showcased remarkable creativity, technical expertise, and a profound vision for revolutionizing the realm of automation.

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Touch and slide: cable routing operations with collaborative robots

Deformable elements such as cables, hoses, wires, and ropes are involved in several applications both in domestic and industrial scenarios:  just think about tying the laces of your shoes, or plugging the charger of your mobile phone, or wiring all the cables inside your computer or your car. In particular, cables are widely employed in the automotive and aerospace industries, especially in routing operations. In industrial frameworks, cables manipulation is usually carried out by human operators, representing a bottleneck for several applications. The automation of these operations would hence bring considerable economic benefits and relieve operators from these repetitive tasks. However, granting robots to properly manipulate cables is challenging due to the complex modeling of the deformation of these elements and to the non-trivial description and sensing of their shape.

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An IIoT solution to speed-up collaborative robotics applications

A collaborative robot is a robot intended for direct human robot interaction within a shared workspace, or where humans and robots are in close proximity. For safety reasons, they are typically run at reduced speed with respect to traditional industrial robots. On the other hand, the persistent presence of the human worker might introduce several benefits in specific applications. The activation of safety mechanisms usually stops the motion of these robots or reduces their productivity, as well as the one of other machines and robots involved in the same production process. With the aim of improving their productivity with respect to these situations, we have proposed an online trajectory optimisation method for collaborative robots capable of reducing the number of interventions of safety functionalities.

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Cobots: key allies to increase productivity and mitigate stress

How many times do we feel exhausted after an intense workday? Maybe we did our best at work and then we feel like our own physical and mental resources just disappeared… or we feel like we weren’t able to operate at maximum efficiency, inevitably collapsing into a heap of perceived failure.

In today’s society the modern work paradigm often seems to ask us to do more in less time, and do it well. However, this “fast-and-well” work culture intrinsically incorporates the elements that, in the long run, can lead us to be less productive, or undermine our psycho-physiological safety. This might not only entail serious productivity loss but also lead workers to burnout, overstress and absenteeism.

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Collaborative robotics: a new paradigm?

Collaborative robotics has now been a reality for about ten years and finds space in various applications ranging from the loading of machine tools to quality control, passing through end-of-line packaging.
The ease of installation and the rapid return on investment have represented the main growth drivers of this technology which is carving out an increasing role in the wider robotics sector.
According to the Statistics Department of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), collaborative robotics installations represent a constantly growing market share, from 2.8% in 2017 to 4.8% in 2019. This occurs mainly in new markets and for new applications and minimally subtracting quotas from more traditional robotics.

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When robots can decide what to do

The word “cobot” denotes a robot optimised for the collaboration with humans. Traditional industrial robotics guarantees high efficiency and repeatability for mass production but it lacks flexibility to deal with the fast changes in the consumers’ demand. Humans, on the other hand, can face such uncertainties and variability but they are limited by their physical capabilities, in terms of repeatability, physical strength, endurance, speed etc. The human-robot collaboration is a productive balance that catches the benefits from both industrial automation and human work.

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Robotics gives humans some relief

One of the benefits arising from the adoption of collaborative robots is the possibility to share or carry the load during transportation or manipulation. This type of collaborative operation can clearly reduce the muscular effort of the human, and possibly increase the quality of working environment.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), in fact, represent one of the major work-related health problem in developed countries, affecting almost 50% of industrial workers. As MSDs are mainly due to strenuous biomechanical solicitations due, e.g. to payload transportation or bad postures, it is widely agreed that collaborative robots can help in preserving employees’ health by taking up physically demanding tasks which are too complex to be fully automated.

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Industry 4.0: towards an intelligent collaboration with robots

How many times, at the grocery shop, while waiting for our turn to be served we naturally asked ourselves: should I just queue and wait or should I swing by another aisle in the meanwhile? Well… just a simple question that however entails quite a few reasoning: how fast are the attendants in serving other people? how much time do I have without loosing my turn?

Now, let’s virtually move this paradigm to the factory of the future. Our guest star is now a collaborative robot that has to decide when the human fellow co-worker will require its assistance.

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