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  • What's New In Robotics?  17.01.2020

    Good morning. In this week's news mix: Universal Robots launches cobot leasing program, Bossa Nova's massive Walmart deal and DHL's cobot plans.  We also applaud the arrival of xenobots, meet Stanford's PigeonBot, explore issues of trust with Antonio Chella and much more!

    Cobots & manufacturing

    On Monday, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics announced plans to bring its mobile, shelf-scanning inventory cobots to 1,000 Walmart stores in the United States.  Once complete, the rollout will be the largest deployment of fully autonomous robots in the history of grocery retail

    Screen-Shot-2019-04-10-at-1.01.04-PMCobots support human workers in inventory management.  Credit: TechCrunch

    Via TechCrunch:

    It scans the shelves looking for missing items, sending that information back to a central computer. From there, employees can find the right product to replace on the shelf. Clearly the robots have been doing something right with such a large order this last time around.

    Cobot maker Productive Robotics launched updated software for its range of OB7 cobots this week, bringing more than 50 features to end users, including the ability for OB7 to directly monitor and control machines it’s working with and instant connectivity to machines with Rockwell Automation’s Ethernet IP.

    productive-robotics-OB7_Machine_Tending_4-copyAn OB7 cobot fitted with a Robotiq gripper at work on a machine tending task.  Credit: Productive Robotics

    Meanwhile, cobot giant Universal Robots launched a cobot leasing program in collaboration with global vendor finance company DLL this week.  The partnership, Universal Robots explained, is "designed to enable all manufacturers, regardless of size or capital equipment budgets, to reap the benefits of automation without worrying about cash flow and seasonal fluctuations."  (H/T Financial Buzz)

    Walt Machine in Mississippi (doubled its throughput) and Toolcraft in Mississippi (43% production increase) are just two of the companies to benefit from using cobots for Haas CNC machine operations...

    And Business Chief visited DHL's innovation center in Troisdorf, Germany where cobots are a key element in the delivery giant's plans to invest US$2.2bn into digitalisation and robotics between 2020 and 2025

    large_07bf8a0a_cdc9_0d6f_9304_e63da9a80454DHL has ambitious automation plans for the next five years, including mobile warehouse bots. Credit: DHL

    Via Business Chief:

    Markus Voss, CIO and COO of DHL Supply Chain [...] emphasises that the company has made great efforts to ensure its employees grow alongside its innovations, fostering a culture of working collaboratively with robotics and robotic process automation as opposed to being replaced by it. “To date, I have not seen a single site where we have introduced technology and had job losses. In fact, it is quite the contrary: workers are usually more satisfied and we attract more people,” says Voss.


    Two weeks into January and we've already seen landmark humanoid and retail robot deals on top of the wonders of CES.  But as if all that wasn't exciting enough, on Monday researchers from Tufts and the University of Vermont unveiled a stunning series of 'living robots' composed of frog heart and skin cells.  (PNAS paper | Project website)

    Science_livingrobots_04_Multiple_Design_Organism_PairsTop row: computer generated design.  Bottom row: matching xenobots.  Credit: Douglas Blackiston

    The resulting 'xenobots' --which were designed on a supercomputer tasked with finding the best form for the frog cells to take-- are able to move, carry objects and heal themselves when cut.  The grain of sand-sized bots were supplied with enough food for seven days, but could potentially survive much longer in nutrient-rich environments.  (Smithsonian explores some of the ethical issues involved.)

    Via The University of Vermont:

    "These are novel living machines," says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism."

    Meanwhile, a team from Stanford University has unveiled a robot with soft, morphing wings inspired by the humble pigeon.  Dubbed 'PigeonBot,' the flying robot embodies 42 degrees of freedom to control the position of 40 feathers via 4 servo-actuated wrist and finger joints.

    pigeonbot-2cc4c2e4c7afc63045d34092a7eadefe98b8b69b-s800-c85The bot incorporates a unique feather management system. Credit: Stanford

    Via NPR:

    It's worth noting that the PigeonBot doesn't incorporate something you might associate with birds' wings – flapping. The designers were focused on incorporating the more subtle wrist-and-finger motions of the wings, so the bot appears to be gliding through the air while it's in flight.

    An automated inspection and maintenance system is being used for the first time to service bullet trains at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in China. 

    Sx0n-fzsuekx2190925The automated inspection system at work beneath a bullet train.  Credit: China News Service

    Via ECNS:

    It is composed of a dynamic inspection device, a robotic system and an information management platform, said Han Yu, vice director of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station's service sector [...] Machinists can use tablet computers to check faults in bullet trains through high definition photos taken by the robot system. The man-machine alternation mode can basically cover any fault found by artificial maintenance.

    • Robot arms selling Huawei phones in new unmanned store (Synced)
    • Sea-going robot designed to deploy equipment in remote oceans (E&T)
    • DARPA funds machine learning research for drone swarms (Unmanned Systems Technology)
    • Underwater robot autonomously gathers seabed samples (New Atlas)
    • 'Rosalind Franklin' Mars rover edges closer to launch (BBC)

    Come back next week for more of the latest robotics news! Until then, please enjoy...

    Five vids for Friday

    1.  The ground-breaking xenobots story has been featured on media around the world, including this interview on Sky News UK with one of the project leads, Josh Bongard. 

    2.  33-year-old Adam Gorlitsky broke the Guinness World Record for exoskeleton marathon-walking last weekend, when he completed the 2020 Charleston Marathon in a time of 33 hours, 16 minutes, and 28 seconds.  (H/T Digital Trends)

    3.  Kaan Esendag, a student at the University of Leeds in the UK is developing a medical robot that helps with wrist rehabilitation following a stroke.

    4.  Matt Deaton explores Japanese researcher Minoru Asada's idea that in order to experience empathy and become capable of ethical thinking, robots will need to be embodied (i.e. not based in the cloud) and, from there, develop a sense of otherness and identity.  

    5.  As human-robot interaction becomes more commonplace, Antonio Chella (Professor of Robotics at the University of Palermo, Italy) explores issues of trust. 

    Read more »
  • Giving Sight to my Robots Skyrocketed my Production

    In June 2014, I purchased my first collaborative robot. At that time I was a one-man shop and I was hoping my first “employee” would help me double or triple production by tending my CNC mill. Within six months I sold the same robot on eBay at a loss of a few thousand dollars. Here’s why. 

    As a manufacturing entrepreneur, I was fascinated with anything at the cutting edge of production. A cobot from Universal Robots seemed like the epitome of cutting-edge. However, I quickly learned that “new” doesn’t necessarily mean “ready.” Sure, thousands of UR robots are working perfectly around the world, but for my small shop I just didn’t have the time or resources to invest in part fixtures, vision systems, or end effectors for the large variety of parts I was making. I cut my losses… but I knew I would be back. 

    Fast forward five years. My business has quadrupled its floor space, added nine machines, and has six full-time employees. I’ve once again purchased a collaborative robot: a UR10e. So why did I add a collaborative robot now, when I have plenty of employees? First of all, the peripherals in the industry have come a long way. My initial struggle with robotics came down to the fact that robots are blind. Programming relies on telling them exactly where each part is supposed to be. With size variations and odd part counts, I needed a variety of gravity feeders and pin boards to present workpieces to the robot.I had a dilemma: Do I spend time making feeders, or machining parts? The best solution would have been a flat table with a camera system on a frame, but deploying such a system seemed more like working with a DOS command line than the smartphone in my pocket. That all changed with the release of the UR e-Series robots and Robotiq Wrist Camera. The plug-and-play integration and simplicity of a wrist-mounted camera is a breath of fresh air. Robotiq’s wrist camera will be on every robot I purchase from now on. 

    Capture d’écran, le 2020-01-13 à 16.28.07My initial struggle with robotics came down to the fact that robots are blind.

    Second, the software in the industry has come a long way. Several months into owning my first robot, my reseller went out of business, leaving me without local support. The original UR series robots were relatively intuitive compared to other brands, but a helping hand on the software side would have completed the puzzle on more complex integrations. 

    The peripheral devices available in 2014 also lacked intuitive interfaces. Robotiq is one of the companies that have changed that, with the addition of their end effectors and easy-to-use software for the URCaps platform (the smartphone-like interface for controlling the UR e-Series). Today’s dilemma now revolves around deciding which of their products to buy! 

    Capture d’écran, le 2020-01-13 à 16.22.46

    Robotiq’s wrist camera will be on every robot I purchase from now on. 

    Finally, did I mention the industry has come a long way? URCaps alone bridges the hurdle between powerful peripherals and easy deployment. Command lines, laptops running next to the control box, and an IT degree are no longer required. Even the number of tutorials and demos on YouTube has grown exponentially. The ease with which my Robotiq wrist camera, Force Copilot, and dual Hand-E grippers were deployed sealed the deal on jumping back into collaborative robotics.

    It’s a great time to be in manufacturing. This time around, my robots are here to stay. 

    Read more »
  • Read, Compare and Choose: The Cobots Buyers Guide is Out!

    Yes folks, you've waited long enough, Robotiq is back with its 8th edition of the popular Collaborative Robots Buyers Guide! This is where every collaborative robot is scrutinized and gets a note from Robotiq's experts. Readers also get insight on the main criterias to consider before choosing their cobot. This 8th edition features many new things: New robots, of course, but also an overview of what's coming next in terms of technology and trends. Plus, the cobot eBook gets a whole new, refreshing look. 

    From Tech startups to large automation companies, new players brought themselves to the cobot market whether to expand their offering for manufacturers, strengthen their position as global leader or suggest new alternatives in this young industry. 


    Universal Robots UR16e 

    Universal Robots, the most  widely-deployed cobot manufacturer in the world, surprised many people earlier this year, by introducing the UR16e, which boasts a 16 kg payload capability.
    New family picture for Universal Robots

    UR16e combines the high payload with a reach of 900 mm and pose repeatability of +/- 0.05 mm which fits well for heavy-duty material handling, heavy-part handling, and machine tending.

    Developed on UR’s innovative e-Series platform, the UR16e eliminates the ergonomic and productivity challenges associated with lifting and moving heavy parts and products, lowering costs, and reducing downtime. 

    Like with UR’s other e-Series cobots; UR3e, UR5e and UR10e, the UR16e includes built-in force sensing, 17 configurable safety functions, including customizable stopping time and stopping distance, and an intuitive programming flow. UR16e meets the most demanding compliance regulations and safety standards for unobstructed human-robot collaboration, including EN ISO 13849-1, PLd, Category 3, and full EN ISO 10218-1.


    OMRON TM Series TM5-700 & TM5-900

    OMRON is a very big automation component company with a lot of experience building automation solutions. They are now making their entry in the world of cobots with the TM Series robots.


    Omron joins forces with Techman Robots to offer the OMRON TM cobots

    The TM5-700 and TM5-900 have an embedded camera at their wrists, a compatible 2 finger parallel gripper, an intuitive programming method, are inherently safe, and can be programmed directly from your smartphone.

    Even though all these features are present on some other robots, this time it is an all-inclusive process. No need to buy extra devices that need to be installed by an external integrator. It’s pretty much like plugging a dongle on your smartphone. You just add a couple of components here and there and the robot is ready to use within 5 minutes. For more details, visit their website.

    Techman is an innovation-based intelligent robot maker, with a multidisciplinary team, including machinery, electronics, control, software, and vision. It is an all-inclusive solution and we like it! 


    HANWHA HCR-3/5/12

    Hanwha is a huge South Korean company dealing in various industries across the world. They also manufacture machinery for machine shops and they recently came out with a brand new cobot.

    SON07821-EditThe HCR cobots use an icon-based programming that is simple to learn and understand.  

    The i5 robot is an interesting robot, especially given the price point. It is compatible with a good amount of third party peripherals which makes it easy to use and integrate.


    It seems like Doosan is seeing the collaborative robots design from a different point of view. The Heavy Industry global leader went far from traditional, small-reach, small payload robots, with 2 of their robots having a heavy payload for their reach. 

    The robots are all equipped with torque sensor at their joints to have a better feel what they are doing. Each robot model also have an ‘’heavy duty’’ version that is designed for more harsh environments. The robot is equipped with a state of the art controller and teach pendant that are easy to use. A tracking software is also embedded in the robot controller so you can track your production. 


    Meet the Doosan  M1013

    Doosan came out with a very interesting and promising product. With a very simple interface and the possibility to script more complex task, it is suitable for all levels of complexity. It now supports a good number of third party peripherals such as grippers and cameras, which makes the integration simple and fast.

    Kinova robots 

    Kinova is a Canadian company that started by building an assistive robot for people with reduced mobility. The JACO robot was widely used for research and Kinova then decided to release a robot arm focusing on this specific field of use.


    The Gen 3 Ultra Lightweight Robot is a lightweight 7 degress of freedom robot equiped with a gripper a a 2D/3D camera. They also have their own API and ROS integration.

    While the programming the robot might be fairly complex because of the lack of teach pendant or simple interface, the API, ROS and MATLAB integration makes it a powerful tool for research.

    The i5 robot is an interesting robot, especially given the price point. It is compatible with a good amount of third party peripherals which makes it easy to use and integrate.

    What’s coming next?

    Since innovation never stops, the cobot eBook presents ongoing projects lead by manufacturers such as ABB and Mitsubishi, among others. Read it to get insights on upcoming technology that could be useful for your specific project.

    The Cobots eBook also adresses key trends that are develloping among the cobot market, such as higher payload cobots, new platforms dedicated to medical applications and of course, more and more cobots coming from more and more brands willing to join this ever growing market.

    Get all the main specs, see our take on each cobot out there so that you can choose the right one for your needs. Plus, the cobots eBook gets a whole new look. Go ahead, read, compare and choose! 

    Read more »

NASA Breaking News

  • NASA Pays Tribute, Says Goodbye to One of Agency’s Great Observatories
    NASA will host a live program at 1 p.m. EST Wednesday, Jan. 22, to celebrate the far-reaching legacy of the agency’s Spitzer Space Telescope – a mission that, after 16 years of amazing discoveries, soon will come to an end. Read more »
  • NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal 2019 Second Warmest Year on Record
    According to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth's global surface temperatures in 2019 were the second warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880. Read more »
  • NASA to Provide Coverage of SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch Escape Test
    NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch escape demonstration, as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with U.S. companies to launch American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. Read more »

Space News

Universe Today

European Space Agency Articles

  • ExoMars Rover schließt Umgebungstests ab
    ExoMars Rover schließt Umgebungstests ab Image:

    Zum Ende des Jahres 2019 hat der Rover Rosalind Franklin bei Airbus in Toulouse eine Reihe von Vorbereitungstests für den Flug zum Roten Planeten erfolgreich absolviert. 

    Während der Tests wurde der Rover aufgeheizt und abgekühlt, um die großen Temperaturschwankungen auf seiner Reise durch das Weltall und auf der Marsoberfläche zu simulieren. So muss der Rosalind Franklin beispielsweise mit Temperaturen von -120°C außerhalb und -50°C innerhalb des Rovers auf dem Mars rechnen und in der Lage sein, in weniger als einem Hundertstel des atmosphärischen Drucks der Erde zu funktionieren - und das in einer kohlendioxidreichen Atmosphäre.

    Im vergangenen Jahr hat das Struktur- und Thermalmodell des Rovers eine strenge Umgebungstestkampagne erfolgreich abgeschlossen; das tatsächliche Modell wurde in der letzten Testrunde einer simulierten Weltraumumgebung ausgesetzt.

    Nun stehen die finalen Überprüfungen der Rover-Systeme im Mittelpunkt. Dabei wird auch die Ausrichtung der zusammenwirkenden Instrumente, wie z.B. der bildgebenden Systeme, überprüft.  Nach der Umgebungskampagne wird ein finaler Funktionstest des Gesamtsystems durchgeführt. Sobald diese Überprüfungen am Rover abgeschlossen sind, werden die Schnittstellen mit der Oberflächenplattform und dem Abstiegsmodul getestet, um den Rover sicher auf die Marsoberfläche zu befördern. Die Durchführung dieser Funktionstests und die Integration in das Landemodul des Gesamtsystems erfolgt bei Thales Alenia Space in Cannes. Danach wird der Rover nach Baikonur transportiert.

    Die Mission soll im Zeitfenster vom 26. Juli bis 11. August 2020 mit einer russischen Proton-M-Trägerrakete starten und im März 2021 auf dem Mars landen. Der Rover Rosalind Franklin wird dann die Marsoberfläche erkunden und nach geologisch interessanten Stellen suchen. Dort soll er unter der Oberfläche bohren, um festzustellen, ob es jemals Leben auf unserem Nachbarplaneten gab. Die ExoMars-Mission ist ein Gemeinschaftsvorhaben zwischen ESA und Roscosmos.

    Read more »
  • Die Hitze ist die größte Herausforderung
    Solar Orbiter

    Im Februar 2020 startet die ESA-Sonde „Solar Orbiter“ ins All und soll die Sonne aus nächster Nähe betrachten, zum ersten Mal hochauflösende Bilder der Sonnenpole aufnehmen und unser Verständnis der Auswirkungen der Sonnenaktivität auf die Erde verbessern. Derzeit laufen im Satellitenkontrollzentrum der ESA in Darmstadt Trainingsphasen für das Flugkontrollteam des Orbiters.

    Read more »
  • Jahresrückblick: Das sind die Bilder des Jahres 2019

    Das Jahr 2019 war spannend - genießen Sie unseren Jahresrückblick in Bildern!

    Read more »

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