Pilot lines, as early test-beds for production lines, are excellent instruments for experimentation, knowledge-transfer and eventual commercial uptake. They facilitate prototyping to speed up time-to-production and can be utilized by industry to assess the return on investment of new products, processes and methodologies. Pilot lines can therefore play a crucial role in the diffusion of basic and applied research knowledge from academia to industry, engaging and convincing relevant stakeholders. On the other hand, providing SMEs access to pilot lines gives academia also a close view to the needs and interests of the industry. This close collaboration is a key factor in boosting the innovation capability of both academia and industry.
At Tampere University, a human-robot collaboration (HRC) pilot line is under development (see Fig. 1), which will be utilized in the ODIN project. The HRC pilot line consists of two heavy industrial robots (ABB IRB 4600), several industrial grippers (Schunk) and tools (Kolver screwdriver), different safety systems (SICK, Pilz) and tools for visual sensing and projection. Digital twin capabilities are supported by a Virtual Reality system (HTC Vive) and a virtual environment (see Fig. 2), for reconfiguration needs, cognitive assembly planning, production planning and safety aspects. The HRC pilot line aims to demonstrate how novel technologies can be integrated together. More details can be found here: https://research.tuni.fi/hrc-pilotline/
As such, several modular technological solutions are integrated and will be developed in the nearby future. These include safety area monitoring, object pose estimation, sensor networks, digital twins, human-robot collaboration, multi-robot collaboration, among many others.
For ODIN, the pilot line will demonstrate that novel robot-based production systems are not only technically feasible, but also efficient and sustainable for immediate introduction at the shopfloor. This enables reconfigurable production systems and high payload robots that collaborate with humans. Targeted towards white goods industry, the pilot line will include the ability to reprogram/reconfigure a robot for a new product variant:
Finally, the pilot line has also as objective to create an innovation ecosystem to enable sustainability of open pilot lines involving robotic application stakeholders and Digital Innovation Hubs. Successful innovation in the manufacturing domain requires a long term and integrated strategy ensuring that the European Manufacturing Ecosystems promote the necessary basic and applied research and its diffusion among the relevant stakeholders.