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Heavy-duty robot is first to offer ‘true collaboration’

19 July, 2016

At the recent Automatica exhibition in Germany, the Italian robot-maker Comau previewed what it claims is the first high-payload robot to achieve true collaboration with humans. Two of the Aura (advanced use robotic arm) collaborative robots were demonstrated working on a Maserati car – one polishing its bonnet (hood), while the other loading and unloading a battery from its boot (trunk).

The company also announced two complementary technologies – collaborative grippers and rotary tables.

The Aura robots – which will be available with payloads of 6kg or 110kg – offer six layers of safety, including laser scanners, a vision system, a protective foam skin, as well as proximity, contact and wrist force sensors. Comau claims that the system is unique in the way that it combines the simultaneous sensing of the proximity of people and objects, including the intensity of any contacts, and uses this information to ramp down the motion of the robot so that it comes to a complete stop only when it is very close or in contact with people.

The laser scanners identify the positions of people dynamically, while the vision system transits data about the presence of any people who are close to the robot, allowing software to predict their movements and modify the robot’s trajectory accordingly.

In the Automatica demonstration of the Aura technology, one of the new robots was polishing and dewaxing the bonnet of a Maserati Ghibli. The 110kg-capacity, hollow-wrist robot was handling a dedicated polishing tool, using its sixth axis. The demonstration showed that once the robot had been taught its trajectory by being guided manually, it could repeat the task itself.

One of the two Aura heavy-duty collaborative robots that Comau unveiled at Automatica was demonstrated polishing the bonnet of a Maserati

The second robot was placing a battery in the car’s boot, slowing down as it approached the vehicle. This robot was being operated using a combination of manual guidance and tactile commands.

Comau’s new collaborative gripper system is equipped with a force/torque sensor fitted to the robot flange and uses the same safety layers as the Aura robots.

The collaborative rotary table uses a technology called “series elastic actuation” consisting of a spring combined with a double-encoder which allows the table to give way, when touched.

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