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Students and Saywer performing in a duet

Could a cobot be flexibly used for the production of small batches? What are the first steps in programming the cobot and which prior knowledge is required? How does human-robot collaboration work in practice? All these questions can be answered by the example of Sawyer from Rethink Robotics.

End of July we visited the University of Applied Sciences in Kempten, accompanied by the company Liebherr and four Sawyer cobots. Students of the department for electrical engineering and a group of vocational students participated in a 20-hour human-robot-collaboration Makeathon. The challenge was to automate a filigree placement of cylindrical roller bearings with rolling elements and spacers using a cobot. Until today, this procedure has been performed manually. The specific task: An interdisciplinary pick & place automation, starting with the concept down to the construction of the grippers up to the performance.
Foolproof programming

The participants directly experienced how easy, flexible and safe to use Sawyer and the software Intera are. Without any training or specific knowledge in programming, all teams were able to teach Sawyer already during the first day of the challenge. Thanks to their inspiration, the students could develop intelligent gripper solutions and creative approaches in the process as well as in the programming of tasks. The exciting experiment lead to innovative results bringing the students visible joy in working with Sawyer, which lead to a further sense of achievement.

This application shows how easily the automation of recurring activities in assembly, handling and the commissioning of parts and packages can be realized. Cobots can operate safely around people and inexperienced employees will learn the basics of cobot programming in a short time. Even the youngest guest of the makeathon, a 14-year-old, was able to develop and implement a solution with Sawyer in mere minutes.

Cobots: The key role to modern and automated production

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dirk Jacob, vice president of teaching and quality management at the University of Kempten and expert on robotics and automation, manages the faculty of electrical engineering at the University of Kempten and initiated the Makeathon. He is certain that the scope of application for cobots will be easy pick & place tasks like the insertion of parts in tool machines, stacking and sorting of parts as well as easy assembly work. “Those who want to exploit the potential of future production environments and ensure long-term competitive advantages need to intelligently link the three key factors of human skills, technology and adaption,” he emphasizes in relation to the stock placement competition with Sawyer.

Whether it is a Makeathon or a user application, the possible use-cases for cobots like Sawyer are countless. Forward-looking automated production stations display everything; from purely manual assembly stations, up to fully automated welding stations. Between those two forms there are a lot of opportunities for applications of human-robot collaboration solutions. This technology will play an increasing role in the future. This is why we value and support the combination of teaching and practical experiences by providing impulses and ideas for the specialists of tomorrow.

We are happy to see that the experiment was successful and the students were able to develop an innovative solution for Liebherr, using the technology of Sawyer and Intera.