Schmersal promotes HRC research project

Human-robot collaboration (HRC) should be safer in the context of Industry 4.0

Wuppertal, 11 April 2016. The Schmersal Group sponsors the “beyondSPAI” research project at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, with funding amounting to €45,000.
The aim of the project, which is directed by Professor Dr Norbert Jung of the Institute for Safety Research, is to improve safety during collaborations between humans and robots in industrial production. With the help of a multi-level sensor system and intelligent software, industrial robots are able to recognise when they are near to a human, in order to stop any dangerous movement in a timely manner. Therefore, inter alia, optical sensors and special process image processing algorithms are used in order to recognise human skin, and to identify human silhouettes. Thus, these sensor technologies enable direct and safe interaction between humans and robots without separating guard devices being required. The research project will run for three years, and its sponsors include the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Schmersal is the only project partner from the industry. 

A further step towards the realisation of Industry 4.0
“Autonomous and sensor-supported robots, which can control themselves situationally, enable the optimisation of production processes. They make a significant contribution to the realisation of the “Industry 4.0” vision. Still, the safety of employees in human-robot collaboration must always be guaranteed – which is why we are supporting this important research project,” explains Michael Mandel, Executive Director of K.A. Schmersal GmbH & Co. KG. “For around fifteen years, the Schmersal Group has carried out research and development work in the field of robots and machine safety. We are looking forward to the exchange of expertise, and the new insights that we will gain through this project with the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences.”

Robot manufacturers use the Schmersal “Safety Controller”
One result of Schmersal’s research and development work is the “Safety Controller”. The so-called “Cartesian cams” are arranged so that they form a virtual working space. With the help of the safety controller, the robot monitors its own position and the speed of the axles. If the forces and speeds are low enough, and all the robot axles are kept in a virtual “cage”, the robot can interact directly with the human. By developing the Safety Controller, Schmersal has laid the foundations for one of the safety concepts currently used by leading robot manufacturers and which is beginning to really make its mark in the automotive industry (and others). The relevant customer-specific safety controller allows the implementation of functions such as “safe axle zone” and “safe speed”.