Hong Kong, 31 May 2014 – KUKA Laboratories GmbH is taking part in the ICRA (International Conference on Robotics and Automation), the world’s largest robotics conference, in Hong Kong. From 31 May to 5 June, KUKA is presenting its products to the research community of renowned scientists there.
As a gold sponsor of the conference, KUKA is featuring three exhibits at its 30 m² booth in the Convention Center: two applications of the lightweight robot LBR as well as the KUKA youBot, which is already used for research and teaching at well over 100 top universities worldwide.
With the LBR iiwa, the first lightweight robot for industrial applications, and the corresponding interfaces in the new KUKA Sunrise controller, researchers can implement their ideas even better. It provides researchers with an ideal opportunity to make their technologies and applications interesting for industry.
The LBR iiwa in human-robot collaboration
The “Connectivity” application shows just how easily third-party external sensors and software can be integrated into the LBR iiwa controller. This is demonstrated in an application in which the LBR iiwa tracks and catches artificial beetles crawling around it. The robot is equipped with a camera and a gripper for this purpose. Communication between the camera and robot controller takes place within milliseconds, with the camera thus controlling the robot. The motion path of the LBR iiwa is continuously replanned in real time. An industrial application could for example involve recognizing and picking up various parts on a conveyor. This application is implemented without physical safeguards, as the robot is operating in safe human-robot collaboration (HRC) mode. A further HRC feature is demonstrated by simply touching the robot: due to the integrated torque sensors, this action switches off the gripper, setting the beetles free again.
A further application demonstrates the LBR as a “medical assistant”. In direct collaboration with a surgeon, it could assist in the replacement of knee joints – a procedure which is performed across the globe approximately two million times each year. In this process, a piece of both the femur and tibia is removed using a surgical saw so that the artificial joint can be fitted. Equipped with a medical instrument, the saw, the LBR Med is guided by the surgeon. The entire procedure is monitored by a special camera and displayed on a screen in 3D. With the aid of optical markings on both the bone and the LBR Med, the camera can recognize the positions of the bone and the robot with minute accuracy. Funnel-shaped virtual walls which move with the bone limit the surgeon’s workspace. In this way, the surgeon is led precisely to the sawing point without relinquishing control over this part of the operation. The experience of the surgeon and the accuracy of the robot thus optimally complement each other. The goal here is to improve accuracy in the placement of the implant.
The youBot – a research robot
The KUKA youBot will also be a participant at ICRA. In a pick&place application, it navigates autonomously through a course set up on a table. It finds its way to a depot, where it picks up a youBot keychain. It then brings the keychain to a previously defined position and sets it down. The visitor can then pick up his giveaway at this location. This application illustrates two important areas of mobile manipulation: autonomous navigation with the KUKA navigation software and mobile pick&place applications, thus highlighting the role of the KUKA youBot as a reference platform for research and development.
“Enabling you to realize your robotics ideas”
For KUKA as a global technological leader in robotics and automation, it is of great importance and also a matter of course to cooperate closely with science and research. In line with the slogan “enabling you to realize your robotics ideas”, KUKA aims to use these applications to inspire researchers to develop their own applications and introduce their own ideas. Using reference platforms affords advantages for researchers and KUKA alike: to start with, the scientists can concentrate on their core tasks, namely the development of new algorithms in the areas of path planning, 3D vision and object manipulation, for example. Moreover, the use of reference platforms enables research results to be compared. That makes it easier for KUKA to evolve technologies from the research stage into future products. The pace of innovation in robotics is accelerated enormously.