Members press release

Schunk, Germany - IFR Partner

4th. SCHUNK ExpertDays on Service Robotics

Experts from 22 countries met at the 4th Expert-Days on Service Robotics at SCHUNK.On February 23 and 24, 2011 experts from all over the world met at the 4th annual Expert Days on Service Robotics, hosted by SCHUNK, the competence leader for clamping technology and gripping systems. While the leading symposium for applied service robotics primilarly focused on the issue of applied technologies in the past, this year's topics were market development and efficiency. By means of numerous practical examples, it became clear that service robots have left the stadium of university research, and are increasingly used by industrial companies for specific applications.

Service robotics is gaining greater momentum from an economical point of view which was proven to be true at the ExpertDays: nine of the 18 speakers came directly from the industry. Polysius AG markets a fully automatic laboratory automation system for quality control during the cement production process. Audi AG intensively researches on service robots for picking of parts in the automotive industry, Harris Corp. uses service robots for bomb disposal, and Infineon Technologies AG controls the air quality in cleanrooms with service robots.

One part of the SCHUNK ExpertDays was an exhibition with innovative applications from the field of service robotics. Professor Dr. Henrik I. Christensen, holder of the "KUKA Chair of Robotics" at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, USA said that the developments so far have been ignored the market. Solutions are technologically mature, but are too expensive for real-world applications. He urged for a change from technologically driven researches to market- and price-orientated developments. If costs keep within the budget, said Christensen, service robots can open up their markets. Paying $200 to $300 for a household robot is realistic. In the healthcare industry, the price limit is about $10,000. User- or consumer-orientated interfaces are equally important. Then robots can be served by robotic armatures, too. Moreover he recommended to design service robots for special applications. In the healthcare field, for example, the focus must be more on the manipulation and navigation, in the logistics however cycle times must be lower than 6 seconds, and the grippers have to be robust and flexible.

This event made clear that standardized platforms and components can contribute to economic and highly developed solutions. This applies for light-weight arms or flexibly applicable grippers, but also for mobile platforms or control units. Binding standards from ISO standard to the CE-marking up to nationals standards, as they are currently developped in South Korea, should facilitate the market entry of service robots. According to Prof. Alois Knoll of the Technical University in Munich, system integrators are required, which are specialized for individual fields of application. They should close the gap in future, between manufacturer and user. In Christensen's opinion, system integration is a substantial portion of the value creation, and the function of a system integrator can be very interesting from the economic point of view.

Even visionary approaches were introduced at the 4th annual SCHUNK ExpertDays. Dr. Amos Albert of Robert Bosch GmbH sees a considerable potential in semi-autonomous service robots. If you do not have your own solution strategy, you can be assisted by a central support. The so-called "Click-Worker" may be organized like a call center. If needed, they can connect to the robot, solve the problem and release the robot into its autonomy again. A concept of Dr. Markus Waibel from the Federal Technical University in Zurich went a step further. He searched for a central knowledge store, in which countless data, models, applications and programs are stored, which can be independently called off by the robot itself. The idea is amazingly easy: All the connected robots, developers and system integrators can use a common pool of knowledge, with successful solution strategies, and put self-developed strategies into the system.

Manipulators, with compact performance such as the lightweight-arm LWA-4 from SCHUNK, are demanded modules in service robotics.SCHUNK as a pioneer for modular robotics, has promoted the development of service robots from the very beginning. With its industry-proven, mechatronic modules and skillful, polynominal grippers the family-owned company offers a unique modular system for various applications in service robotics. It includes the LWA-4, a modular lightweight arm with the most compact performance on the international market. In almost 100 cooperations with universities, research institutions and highly specialized industrial companies, SCHUNK pushes the development of this new technology forward.

You will find information and photos on the SCHUNK ExpertDays on Service Robotics on the internet at www.expertdays.schunk.com. Also a facebook group was set up at www.expertdays.schunk.com/facebook. The date for the 5th annual SCHUNK ExpertDays on Service Robotics is already in place, and will take place on February 29 to March 1st, 2012.


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