Phil Kitchen, the lead for the Collaborative Robotics research project, pictured at MACH 2018 exhibition showcasing how the KUKA iiwa can be used a robotic assistant.
Engineers are helping SMEs transform into factories of the future
Engineers at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) are leading the way in Collaborative Robotics research in a drive to help SMEs integrate the technology onto factory floors.
Phil Kitchen has been leading on a Catapult-funded Collaborative Robotics research project for the Integrated Manufacturing Group at the AMRC’s Factory 2050, developing technology demonstrators for industrial partners to show how humans and robots can work safely together and testing a new safety standard awaiting ratification for different types of cobots.
The project began in May last year and was completed in March this year with the aim of developing a gold standard in cobot safety that could increase confidence among SMEs to integrate the technology onto their factory floors and transform production lines by increasing the rate at which a process is done, as well as the uniformity and quality of finish on a product.
As part of this work a cell was created at Factory 2050 which demonstrated cobot safety integration to show potential adopters the usefulness of the technology and that it is able to be industrialised.
Phil said: “What we want to do is to start to develop a gold standard for integration. There are a number of benefits of collaborative robotics for SMEs – improved quality, improved rate, so the rate at which they are making their products - and if they improve rate they can potentially sell more and expand, helping them to grow through the use of collaborative robotics."
One of the challenges for companies wanting to use the technology is the task of safely integrating these robots - there are limited companies in the UK who have the knowledge do this. By doing the research now, Phil said it will position the AMRC at the forefront of collaborative robotics expertise in the UK.
“The main driver for companies getting involved with cobots research now is to ensure they are not left behind when the technology becomes common place on factory floors of the future. The research has the capacity to significantly ramp up manufacturing production in the UK, leading to the creation of more jobs, including roles for skilled workers needed to maintain collaborative robots.”