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Cobots from Universal Robots winning Grants4Tech robotics challenge

Photo by Universal Robots

Pharmaceutical multinational Bayer was searching for solutions to automate a highly complex process currently performed entirely by hand: quality control of powder samples taken from sealed bags inside specific containers, an operation carried out hundreds of times a day in Bayer plants. The German company launched a worldwide appeal for a robotics solution, lead by specific bespoke software, to open a number of powder containers, remove a plastic strip and open the bag inside, take a powder sample with a special probe, and then put back the plastic strip and close the container. All in a 15-minute cycle time.

LAIAL, an Italian team formed by Loccioni, a technological ‘tailor’s shop’, delivering turn-key solutions for automatic measurement and quality control, together with IIT (Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia) were up for the challenge; Loccioni used two UR10 robots equipped with Schunk grippers and IDS cameras (2D and 3D) to develop the robotic platform, while IIT developed the tools for the delicate cutting, gripping and manipulation operations.

Given the nature of the materials being handled – the impalpability of the powder and the flimsiness of the plastic bag – and the need for maximum accuracy, reliability and repeatability, the sampling process is a tricky procedure, and ideal for automation with robots, which, by definition, deliver a high degree of precision and repeatability in each phase, but without the same perception of the objects as a human operator.

Using collaborative UR robots in this application meant that the robots could operate right alongside people without any safety guarding barriers, in limited spaces,
and in environments requiring the utmost cleanliness as the cobots are cleanroom certified.

Thanks to IIT’s expertise in interpreting manual operations and designing bio-inspired robotic components to eliminate fatigue and Loccioni’s knowhow in integrating and installing robotic solutions in industrial environments, the LAIAL team beat the other teams taking home the first prize of 40,000 euro.

For more information visit: www.universal-robots.com