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  • What's New In Robotics This Week - 16.03.2018 

    -Manufacturing & cobot roundup
    -KUKA plans 2x China production capacity
    -Cobot Jedi battle
    -Little Caesar's bot patent
    -Bat bot bonanza
    -And much more! 


    Manufacturing & cobot roundup 

    ABB previewed its new single-arm cobot (which has a payload of 500g) at a trade show in Japan.  The new cobot is set for its official launch and commercial release later this year.  

    KUKA has plans to double its robot production capacity in China to meet demand, according to a report in ECNS

    New video showing AUBO-i5 cobots working on assembly, pick and place, and screwing tasks on a production line alongside human co-workers was released... 



    The Future Today Institute
    's annual Trend Report was launched at SXSW in Austin, Texas and for the second year, collaborative robots were featured: 

    In the near-future, collaborative robots will play a key role in warehouses and distribution centers, automating the tasks previously performed by humans. There are a number of other immediate use cases: collaborative robots will help on construction sites, in factories, and during military operations. In the farther future, collaborative robots will underpin fully-automated supply chains, logistics services and deliveries.

    Like so many of us, this Ragnar robot feeds on sticky rolls of dough with cream... 



    The European Robotics Forum 2018 (ERF2018) took place in Tampere, Finland, this week under the theme "Robots and Us".  More than 900 scientists attended 50 workshops covering "current societal and technical themes, including human-robot-collaboration and how robotics can improve industrial productivity and service sector operations." 


    Caption: Bernd Liepert, President of euRobotics and Chief Innovation Officer at KUKA, speaking at ERF2018. 

    The EU-funded ROBOTT-NET project is running tests to "identify the feasibility of using robotic assistance in the manufacture of a range of industrial parts that are currently assembled and welded by a skilled technician"... 




    Meanwhile, TechRepublic explored the work of RoboTiCan, an Israeli startup that builds "low-cost industrial robots for the masses using the Robot Operating System"; Robotic Vision Technologies secured USD10.5 million in funding; and Nigel Smith, CEO of TM Robotics, explored some of the issues to keep in mind when choosing a cobot

    Doug Spinn, principal at cobot integrator Robot 27, showed off some manufacturing solutions created using Universal Robots’ cobots... 




    EE|Times explored some of the latest collision avoidance, detection, and tracking research technologies for human-robot collaboration. 


    Caption: An engineer and robot work together in a safe, controlled environment thanks to the Humatics Spatial Intelligence Platform.

    The global industrial robots market, estimated to be worth USD25.68 billion in 2013, is expected to reach USD40.00 billion by 2020, according to a new report.

    Jalopnik profiled some of the robots and humans that build big rigs together...



    Researchers from IOActive developed a proof-of-concept attack that turned ordinarily benevolent service robots into "malicious, money-grubbing automatons who demand bitcoin as a ransom payment." 

    GreyOrange launched its Butler PickPal bot "for autonomous fulfilment in logistics centres." 

    Two UR5 cobots fitted with Robotiq 3-Finger Grippers and FT 300 Force Torque Sensors got into a Jedi battle at SXSW.  





    Researchers in Japan and Italy have proposed a new approach to walking pattern generation, based on "a hierarchical network of electronic oscillators arranged over two levels, which they have demonstrated using an ant-like hexapod robot." 

    tokyotechssi.jpgCaption: Views of the Circuit Board Implementing the Controller and of the Robot. Credit: IEEE ACCESS (H/T PhysOrg.) 

    Remember Flippy, the burger-flipping robot we featured last week? Well, the team have taken it offline for now, reportedly because its human coworkers couldn't keep up.  

    While geared towards manufacturing and factory environments, the Lean Robotics methodology can help prevent cell designs that lead to overproduction. If you like your robotics to be like your burgers --lean-- then you can learn more here.  

    Meanwhile, Little Caesars patented a pizza-making robot

    Pizza Hut Patent.pngCaption: A screengrab from Little Caesar's pizza-bot patent

    X Prize has announced a USD10 million competition to spur the development of robot avatars (The Verge); Cai Fang, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called for a tax levy and other measures for robotics (Business AM Live); and Wells Fargo's AI has predicted that Amazon will choose Boston for HQ2. 

    Toyota revealed CUE, a hoop-shootin' humanoid... 



    Walmart has hinted that it may want to make crop-pollinating robot bees (UK Business Insider); in certain situations, Toyota prefers its self-driving cars to handle potholes instead of a human (Automotive World); there's a new telepresence robot in town, dubbed 'Ava' (IEEE Spectrum). 

    Finally, in a bountiful week for bat bots, CNBC featured the work of Yossi Yovel, an Israeli researcher who wants to improve robot communication using some techniques favoured by biological bats and we met the 'Chirocopter' a drone that hovers among fast-moving swarms of bats, gathering key data along the way...



    Like a bat with particularly large ears and a keen sense of direction, I'll find my way back here next week with more robotics news.

    Until then... 

    Five vids for Friday 


    1.  A research team from South Korea has developed an origami-inspired robotic arm that's foldable, self-assembling and also highly-rigid. Things get really exciting though when the invention is attached to a gripper and a drone.  




    2.  Engagdet visited SXSW where they encountered a sushi robot, an AI piano and more.  




    3.  Australian TV ran an interesting feature on SwagBot --"the first prototype of a robot to do cattle work 24/7 in all terrain and all weather, with the aim of helping Aussie farmers tackle some of their biggest challenges."  




     4.  KUKA is exploring the possibility of using its LBR iiwa cobots as a teleoperation device for robotic virtual surgery. 




     5.  Researchers from South Korea revealed Shelly --a bot designed to teach children that they really shouldn’t abuse robots



     Watch the FT 300 reduce injuries and increase productivity 

    Read more »
  • Simplify Your Programming with These Force Torque Sensor Skills

    What's happening on DoF this week?

    • Download these Skills to get the most out of your FT 300 Force Torque Sensor!
    • Get the list of the Modbus registers for UR.
    • Get two robots to communicate with each other, simply by using an Ethernet switch.

    Learn more from automation Pros here!

    Put your FT 300 Force Torque Sensor to use with these Skills


    Did you take a look at our various Skills yet? These ready-to-use robotic functions will simplify your programming and shorten the time you spend in front of your teach pendant. 

    Here are the top three Skills that put the FT 300 Force Torque Sensor to great use: 

    Spiral Search – Insert a pin or shaft into a bore by performing a spiral search

    Collision Detection – Define the values at which a program should stop to prevent a potential collision

     Click Detection – Detect sudden force drops in a specific direction


    Bookmark this list of UR Modbus registers 

    Matthewd92 shared a convenient link about UR Modbus registers with the community. This comes in handy when you have multiple robots in a cell, because one robot can see the input status of the other robots. Get the info here!

    Get two robots to communicate


    RamonSanchez just purchased two UR10s with a 3-finger Adaptive Robot Gripper for each robot. He's currently using the Ethernet connection on each robot to communicate with the Grippers via TCP/IP. However, he would like to have the two robots communicate with each other as well. Matthewd92 and BeachChE both suggested simply using an Ethernet switch, which worked out great for Ramon. Ask the Pros about making your robots communicate!

     Did we miss anything? Ask the Pros on DoF!

    Read more »
  • What's the Potential of Force Torque Sensors in Collaborative Robotics?

    Why should a manufacturer put a force torque sensor on a collaborative robot? Robotiq's CTO Jean-Philippe (JP) Jobin had an interesting chat with's Isaac Maw last week. They spoke about Robotiq's FT 300 Force Torque Sensor and the engineering behind it, as well as the future of force-sensitive applications.

    Since manufacturing environments are generally noisy, it's key for the sensor to be immune to outside interference. That's why Robotiq developed a digital force torque sensor (and thereby avoided having to deal with analog signals, which can be influenced by external noise).

    FT300-1 (2).jpgThe Robotiq FT 300 detects and measures robot contact to simplify robot control and programming.

    So why put a FT 300 on a collaborative robot? JP gives a great example in the article: “At each of the six joints of the robot, the manufacturer has a torque sensor measuring 1 axis of effort. This measurement depends on the mass and geometry of the robot. If you want to measure the force applied accurately or repeatably, you need to do some approximation of the mass and configuration. You don’t get good results by measuring each and every joint, especially not at low cost."

    He goes on to say that getting great results requires expensive torque-measurement equipment (like the KUKA iiwa); which is why "the best way to do it, in our opinion, is to keep a low-level precision force control for safety and get a high-precision sensor at the wrist, where it’s needed.”


    Enable new applications with end-effector combos

    Collaborative robots can achieve much more when equipped with many sensors. As JP explains, “There is an advantage in getting the sensor and the end-effector from the same supplier. We have software for the specific application data from the gripper and sensor. It’s a limited advantage at this point, but in the future, it will increase. We also have a camera, and we want to combine the three in the future for better functionality.”

    Each end-effector can accomplish a lot more that we might first have thought. Whether we're talking about grinding, deburring, product testing, assembly, or machine tending, the possibilities for the FT 300 are almost endless . Read the complete article for more examples.

    This view on the future of sensors brings us to another conversation that also took place last week: this one was between automatica's Ivanka Stefanova-Achter and Robotiq's CEO (and author of Lean Robotics), Samuel Bouchard.

    Regarding the future of collaborative robotics, Sam offered an optimistic view of what to expect. “Right now, we’re still using very low-level instructions to operate collaborative robots. It requires a lot of expertise. If robots can have a higher level of abstraction, it’s going to be much easier to collaborate. The challenge is to put more intelligence into the different components. Our goal at Robotiq is to empower businesses by showing them how to install robots by themselves, thus helping them to overcome workforce challenges, including a shrinking labor pool. Obviously, the real goal is that we need to collaborate seamlessly.” 

    Happy reading!

    Force and Torque Sensors for Industrial Robotics

    Human-robot interaction is a key to unlock the potential of service robotics

    Start production faster with Lean Robotics

    Read more »

NASA Breaking News

Space News

Universe Today

  • The First SpaceX BFR Should Make Orbital Launches by 2020

    Elon Musk has a reputation for pushing the envelop and making bold declarations. In 2002, he founded SpaceX with the intention of making spaceflight affordable through entirely reusable rockets. In April of 2014, his company achieved success with the first successful recovery of a Falcon 9 first stage. And in February of this year, his company successfully launched its Falcon Heavy and managed to recover two of the three boosters.

    But above and beyond Musk’s commitment to reusability, there is also his longer-term plans to use his proposed Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to explore and colonize Mars. The topic of when this rocket will be ready to conduct launches was the subject of a recent interview between Musk and famed director Jonathon Nolan, which took place at the 2018 South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

    During the interview, Musk reiterated his earlier statements that test flights would begin in 2019 and an orbital launch of the full BFR and Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS) would take place by 2020. And while this might seem like a very optimistic prediction (something Musk is famous for), this timeline does not seem entirely implausible given his company’s work on the necessary components and their success with reusability.

    As Musk emphasized during the course of the interview:

    “People have told me that my timelines have historically been optimistic. So I am trying to re-calibrate to some degree here. But I can tell what I know currently is the case is that we are building the first ship, the first Mars or interplanetary ship, right now, and I think we’ll probably be able to do short flights, short sort of up-and-down flights probably in the first half of next year.”

    To break it down, the BFR – formerly known as the Interplanetary Transport System – consists of a massive first stage booster and an equally massive second stage/spaceship (the BFS). Once the spacecraft is launched, the second stage would detach and use its thrusters to assume a parking orbit around Earth. The first stage would then guide itself back to its launchpad, take on a propellant tanker, and return to orbit.

    The propellant tanker would then attach to the BFS and refuel it and return to Earth with the first stage. The BFS would then fire its thrusters again and make the journey to Mars with its payload and crew. While much of the technology and concepts have been tested and developed through the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, the BFR is distinct from anything else SpaceX has built in a number of ways.

    For one, it will be much larger (hence the nickname, Big F—— Rocket), have significantly more thrust, and be able  carry a much larger payload. The BFR’s specifications were the subject of a presentation Musk made at the 68th International Astronautical Congress on September 28th, 2017, in Adelaide, Australia. Titled “Making Life  Interplanetary“, his presentation outlined his vision for colonizing Mars and presented an overview of the ship that would make it happen.

    According to Musk, the BFR will measure 106 meters (348 ft) in height and 9 meters (30 ft) in diameter. It will carry 110 tons (~99,700 kg) of propellant and will have an ascent mass of 150 tons (~136,000 kg) and a return mass of 50 tons (~45,300 kg). All told, it will be able to deliver a payload of 150,000 kg (330,000 lb) to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) – almost two and a half times the payload of the Falcon Heavy (63,800 kg; 140,660 lb)

    “This a very big booster and ship,” said Musk. “The liftoff thrust of this would be about twice that of a Saturn V (the rockets that sent the Apollo astronauts to the Moon). So it’s capable of doing 150 metric tons to orbit and be fully reusable. So the expendable payload is about double that number.”

    In addition, the BFR uses a new type of propellant and tanker system in order to refuel the spacecraft once its in orbit. This goes beyond what SpaceX is used to, but the company’s history of retrieving rockets and reusing them means the technical challenges this poses are not entirely new. By far, the greatest challenges will be those of cost and safety, since this will be only the second reusable second stage spacecraft in history – the first being the NASA Space Shuttle.

    Where costs are concerned, the Space Shuttle Program provides a pretty good glimpse into what Musk and his company will be facing in the years ahead. According to estimates compiled in 2010 (shortly before the Space Shuttle was retired), the program cost a total of about $ 210 billion USD. Much of these costs were due to maintenance between launches and the costs of propellant, which will need to be kept low for the BFR to be economically viable.

    Addressing the question of costs, Musk once again stressed how reusability will be key:

    “What’s amazing about this ship, assuming we can make full and rapid reusability work, is that we can reduce the marginal cost per flight dramatically, by orders of magnitude compared to where it is today. This question of reusability is so fundamental to rocketry, it is the fundamental breakthrough that’s needed.”

    As an example, Musk compared the cost of renting a 747 with full cargo (about $500,000) and flying from California to Australia to buying a single engine turboprop plane, – which would run about $1.5 million and cannot even reach Australia. In short, the BFR relies on the principle that it costs less for an entirely reusable large spaceship to make a long trip that it does to launch a single rocket on a short trip that would never return.

    “A BFR flight will actually cost less than our Falcon 1 flight did,” he said. “That was about a 5 or 6 million dollar marginal cost per flight. We’re confident the BFR will be less than that. That’s profound, and that is what will enable the integration of a permanent base on the Moon and a city on Mars. And that’s the equivalent of like the Union Pacific Railroad, or having ships that can quickly cross the oceans.”

    Beyond manufacturing and refurbishing costs, the BFR will also need to have an impeccable safety record if SpaceX is to have a hope of making money from it. In this respect, SpaceX hopes to follow a development process similar to what they did with the Falcon 9. Before conducting full launch tests to see if the first stage of the rocket could safely make it to orbit and then be retrieved, the company conducted short hop tests using their “Grasshopper” rocket.

    Artist concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) on the left, and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (right). Credit: NASA

    According to the timeline Musk offered at the 2018 SXSW, the company will be using the spaceship that is currently being built to conduct suborbital tests as soon as 2019. Orbital launches, which may include both the booster and the spaceship, are expected to occur by 2020. At present, Musk’s earlier statements that the first flight of the BFR would take place by 2022 and the first crewed flight by 2024 still appear to be on.

    For comparison, the Space Launch System (SLS) – which is NASA’s proposed means of getting to Mars – is scheduled to conduct its first launch in 2019 as well. Known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), this launch will involve sending an uncrewed Orion capsule on a trip around the Moon. EM-2, in which a crewed Orion capsule will delver the first module of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G, formerly the Deep Space Gateway) to lunar orbit, will take place in 2022.

    The ensuing missions will consist of more modules being delivered to lunar orbit to complete construction of the LOP-G, as well as the Deep Space Transport (DST). The first interplanetary trip to Mars, Exploration Mission 11 (EM-11), won’t to take place until 2033. So if Musk’s timelines are to be believed, SpaceX will be beating NASA to Mars, both in terms of uncrewed and crewed missions.

    As for who will be enabling a permanent stay on both the Moon and Mars, that remains to be seen. And as Musk emphasized, he hopes that by showing that creating an interplanetary spaceship is possible, agencies and organizations all over the planet will mobilize to do the same. For all we know, the creation of the BFR could enable the creation of an entire fleet of Interplanetary Transport Systems.

    The South by Southwest Conference began on Friday, March 9th and will continue until Sunday, March 18th. And be sure to check out the video of the interview below:

    Further Reading: Testlarati, SXSW

    The post The First SpaceX BFR Should Make Orbital Launches by 2020 appeared first on Universe Today.

    Read more »
  • This Bizarre Image is a 3D Scan of a Cave Network in Spain. This Technology Could be Used to Map Out Lava Tubes on the Moon and Mars

    For some time, scientists have known that the Moon and Mars have some fascinating similarities to Earth. In addition to being similar in composition, there is ample evidence that both bodies had active geological pasts. This includes stable lava tubes which are very similar to those that exist here on Earth. And in the future, these tubes could be an ideal location for outposts and colonies.

    However, before we can begin choosing where to settle, these locations need to be mapped out to determining which would be suitable for human habitation. Luckily, a team of speleologists (cave specialists), geologists and ESA astronauts recently created the largest 3D image of a lava tube ever created. As part of the ESA’s PANGAEA program, this technology could one day help scientists map out cave systems on the Moon and Mars.

    The lava tube in question was the La Cueva de Los Verdes, a famous tourist destination in Lanzarote, Spain. In addition to ESA astronaut Matthias Mauer, the team consisted of Tommaso Santagata (a speleologist from the University of Padova and the co-founder of the Virtual Geographic Agency), Umberto Del Vecchio and Marta Lazzaroni – a geologists and a masters student from the University of Padova, respectively.

    Testing out the Leica BLK360 in La Cueva de los Verdes lava tube in Lanzarote, Spain. Credit and Copyright: ESA – Alessio Romeo

    Last year, the team mapped the path of this cave system as part of the ESA’s 2017 Pangaea-X campaign. As one of many ESA Spaceflight Analog field campaigns, the purpose of Pangaea-X is to conduct experiments designed to improve the future of the ESA’s Planetary ANalogue Geological and Astrobiological Exercise for Astronauts (PANGAEA) training course.

    For five days in November 2017, this campaign mobilized 50 people, four space agencies and 18 organizations in five different locations. The La Cueva de los Verdes lava tube was of particular importance since it is one of the world’s largest volcanic cave complexes, measuring roughly 8 km in length. Some of these caves are even large enough to accommodate residential streets and houses.

    During the campaign, Mauer, Santagata, Vecchio and Lazzaroni relied on two instruments to map the lava tube in detail. These included the Pegasus Backpack, a wearable mapping solution that collects geometric data without a satellite ad synchronizes images collected by five cameras and two 3D imaging laser profilers, and the Leica BLK360 – the smallest and lightest imaging scanner on the market.

    In less than three hours, the team managed to map all the contours of the lava tube. And while the results of the campaign continue to be analyzed, the team chose to use the data they obtained to produce a 3D visual of all the twists and turns of the lava tube. The scan that resulted covers a 1.3 km section of the cave system with an unprecedented resolution of a few centimeters.

    Santagata and the Virtual Geography Agency also turned their 3D visual into a lovely video titled “Lave tube fly-through”, which beautifully illustrates the winding and organic nature of the lava tube system.  This video was posted to the ESA’s twitter feed on Tuesday, March 13th (shown above). This video, like the scans that preceded it, represent a breakthrough in geological mapping and astronaut training.

    While lava tubes have been mapped since the 1970s, a clear view of this subterranean passage has remained elusive until now. Beyond being the first, the scans the team conducted could also help scientists to study the origins of the cave system, its peculiar formations, and assist local institutions in protecting the subterranean environment. As intended, the scans could also assist future space exploration and colonization efforts.

    Pangaea-X arrives at the entrance to La Cueva de los Verdes lava tube. Credit and Copyright: ESA–Robbie Shone

    For instance, the 8 km lava tube has both dry and water-filled sections. In the six-kilometer dry section, the lava tube has natural openings (jameos), that are aligned along the top of the cave pathway. These formations are very similar to “skylights” that have been observed on the Moon and Mars, which are holes in the surface that open into stable lava tubes.

    Such structures are considered to be a good place for building outposts and colonies since they are naturally shielded from radiation and micrometeorites. Lava tubes also have a constant temperature, therefore offering protection against environmental extremes, and could provide access to underground sources of water ice. Some sections could also be sealed off and pressurized to create a colony.

    As such, exploring such environments here on Earth is a good way to train astronauts to explore them on other bodies. As all astronauts know, mapping an environment is the first step in exploration, especially when you are looking for a place to establish a base camp. And in time, this information can be used to establish more permanent settlements, giving rise to eventual colonization.

    Further Reading: ESA, Blogs ESA

    The post This Bizarre Image is a 3D Scan of a Cave Network in Spain. This Technology Could be Used to Map Out Lava Tubes on the Moon and Mars appeared first on Universe Today.

    Read more »
  • Astronomy Cast now available via Amazon’s Alexa!

    You can now enable the Amazon Astronomy Cast skill on your Alexa enabled device (in the US now, Canada soon)!
    You just log into your Alexa dashboard, go to the Skills, and look for “Astronomy Cast.” Or, even easier than that, just say “Alexa, enable Astronomy Cast!”

    You can tell Alexa to skip episodes, back up or jump forward within the same podcast for a certain number of minutes, and many other commands.

    Here’s a video from another podcast, The School of Podcasting, that shows you how it works!

    And Amazon really care about Ratings and Reviews – so make sure to Rate / Review the Alexa skill for us!

    The post Astronomy Cast now available via Amazon’s Alexa! appeared first on Universe Today.

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European Space Agency Articles

  • Höchstkonzentration

    Das Missionskontrollteam von BepiColombo sendet Befehle zum Raumschiff, das derzeit für den Start vorbereitet wird. Read more »
  • Tiangong 1: Chinesische Raumstation im Sinkflug

    Das Büro für Raumfahrtrückstände im ESOC versucht den Zeitpunkt für den Wiedereintritt  der chinesischen Raumstation Tiangong-1 in die Erdatmosphäre zu berechnen. 

    Read more »
  • Vulkanisches Wurmloch

    In diesem 3D-Bild von La Cueva de Los Verdes auf Lanzarote, Spanien, werden die organischen und komplizierten Merkmale einer vulkanischen Höhle bis ins Detail lebendig. Read more »

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