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  • What's New In Robotics?  24.05.2019

    Good morning.  In this week's news mix:  MIT unveils muscle-reading cobot, UR and Sepro sign agreement and Omron talks self-building cars.  We also watch Agility Robotics' humanoid delivery bot in action, meet Stanford's Doggo, marvel at a flying, crawling, squeezing robot and much more! 

    Cobots & manufacturing

    Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have unveiled a system that helps humans lift objects by monitoring muscle movements. 

    MIT News reports:

    Dubbed RoboRaise, the system involves putting electromyography (EMG) sensors on a user’s biceps and triceps to monitor muscle activity. Its algorithms then continuously detect changes to the person’s arm level, as well as discrete up-and-down hand gestures the user might make for finer motor control.

    Cobot maker Universal Robots has signed a partnership agreement with plastics industry automation specialists Sepro Group that will integrate Sepro's Visual Control System with Universal Robots' cobots.

    Credit: Sepro

    Robotics & Automation News reports:

    The Visual Control Platform was developed by Sepro especially for robots used in plastics injection-molding machines. Under the terms of the agreement, Sepro will provide global services for solutions from Sepro and UR. [Sepro's] extensive network allows Sepro to deliver local support and the same quality of service for cobots as it does on Cartesian and six-axis robots.

    In video released this week, Bruno Adam, Omron’s mobile robot business director in Europe, spoke about the company,  which recently agreed a partnership with cobot maker TechMan Robot. Adam envisions a world in which cars can build themselves... 

    Cobots should not be thought of as traditional robots, Universal Robots' Sales Development Manager Ben Courtright told Hawaii's KITV4 this week: 

    "It's a tool in the workers tool belt that can be a screwdriver, it can be a drill, it can be an augmented arm to take away carpal tunnel risk injuries. So it's really designed to make workers more efficient and effective throughout the day."

    In other cobot and manufacturing news:



    RE2 Robotics has received USD3 million to develop an underwater robotic hand with tactile feedback for the U.S. Navy.

    RE2 Robotics
    Credit: RE2 Robotics

    Via AUVSI:

    Known as Strong Tactile mARitime hand for Feeling, Inspecting, Sensing and Handing (STARFISH), the program will create an “advanced end-effector for mine countermeasures (MCM) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions” for U.S. Naval expeditionary forces [...] STARFISH will give operators the ability to locate, identify and neutralize hidden and visible explosive threats on land and underwater.

    NVIDIA has unveiled a system for robot simulations that could enable millions of complete simulations to take place without human intervention. 

    Credit: NVIDIA

    Via IEEE Spectrum:

    In their experiments, the NVIDIA researchers used a cluster of 64 NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs, with the cuDNN-accelerated TensorFlow deep-learning framework, to train a robot to perform two tasks: placing a peg in a hole and opening a drawer. For the simulation, the team used the NVIDIA FleX physics engine.

    Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel revealed an amazing experimental drone this week that can fly, drive and squeeze into tight spaces.


    EurekAlert! reports:

    STAR can fly over obstacles or run underneath them. The sprawl, which adjusts from a flat configuration to 55 degrees allows the robot to transform its movement from a flying quadcopter to a car-like robot. It also adjusts its width to crawl or run on flat surfaces, climb over large obstacles and up closely-spaced walls, or squeeze through a tunnel, pipe or narrow gaps.

    Meanwhile, in other headlines:

    • MIT and U.S. Air Force sign agreement to launch AI Accelerator  (MIT News)
    • Spidey senses' could help autonomous machines see better  (EurekAlert!)
    • Made in New York: the Robotic Art Builder  (NY City Lens)
    • Why putting googly eyes on robots makes them inherently less threatening  (engadget)
    • Mercedes-Benz Prototype Can Deploy Tiny Robot to Direct Traffic (Futurism)


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

    Five vids for Friday

    1.  Berkeley released video this week showcasing the latest upgrades to the galago-inspired Salto robot, including the ability to jump in place and make its way through obstacle courses.  (H/T Berkeley News)

    2.  The Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia's Dynamic Legged Systems lab released stunning video this week of its new quadruped robot HyQReal pulling a small, 3300kg (7275.25 lb) passenger airplane. 

    3.  Ford Motor Company and Agility Robotics have been developing a humanoid system for package delivery.  Video released this week shows the bipedal Digit in action.  (H/T The Verge)

    4.  Students at Stanford University unveiled a new bot called Doggo this week.  Built from scratch using off-the-shelf components, Doggo cost around USD2,600 to build, but best of all, the team have made their design available on GitHub under an MIT license.  (H/T PC Mag)

    5.  Peter Fankhauser, co-founder of ANYbotics, spoke with Pytagus TV this week about the amazing quadruped bot ANYmal. 


    Read more »
  • The Simple Guide to Picking the Right Robot Vacuum Gripper

    Choosing a vacuum gripper can be tricky. There are a ton of vacuum grippers on the market and picking the right one involves many different decisions. Here's the simple guide to picking the right one for your robot applications in just 5 steps.

    AirPick - Palletizing - Automate 2019

    Which end effector do I need for my robot?

    Which type of gripper is best?

    Which model?

    The choice of end effector is one of the most vital (and difficult) decisions that you will have to make when designing your robot cell. There are a huge variety of different end effectors. Even if you know for sure that you need a vacuum gripper, there are still an astounding array of models to choose from.

    But, don't panic. Picking the right vacuum gripper for your robot doesn't have to be hard.

    Just follow these five simple steps and you'll have the perfect vacuum gripper in no time.

    New call-to-action

    1. Clarify your application

    The first step to buying your vacuum is exactly the same step that we recommend for everyone who is considering any robotic solution…

    First, clarify your application.

    In our enthusiasm to implement our solutions, we often forget this vital step.

    Clarifying your application involves taking a step back. It involves asking "What are we trying to achieve with this cell?"

    Do we need to increase throughput? Free up a human worker for another task? Improve task consistency? What are the key performance indicators that we are looking to improve?

    Life becomes a whole lot easier when we are clear about what we are actually trying to achieve with a robot cell.

    Not sure how to start? We have a whole eBook which describes this process — Getting Started With Collaborative Robots: Part I

    getting started with collaborative robots

    Tip: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

    Simple ideas are much easier to implement successfully. There are usually several ways that you could further simplify your application before you start choosing gripper models. Check out How to Simplify a Complex Task for tips on how to simplify your application even further.

    New Call-to-action

    2. Ask yourself: Why do I need a vacuum?

    Although vacuum grippers are popular, they aren't the only option. You should first consider why you need a vacuum gripper — if you do need one.

    Tasks which benefit from vacuum grippers include:

    1. High-speed pick-and-place When configured correctly, vacuum grippers can allow for very short cycle times. If you've ever seen an ultra-high-speed picking application, it almost certainly used vacuum grippers.
    2. Delicate handling — The only part of the gripper that touches the manipulated objects is its suction cup. Hardly any force is applied to the surface of the objects. This makes vacuum grippers great for handling delicate objects, like food or electronics.
    3. Wide, flat objects — Fingered robot grippers can lift just about any object… as long as part of the object can fit firmly between the gripper's fingertips. This makes wide, flat objects (e.g. a pane of glass, sheet metal) almost impossible to lift easily with a fingered gripper. Vacuum grippers connect with the object surface, so are perfect for this type of object.
    4. Hygienic handling — One of the reasons that vacuum grippers are so common in food and medicine manufacturing is that they are easy to keep clean. Suction cups are easy to sanitize and replace, which keeps the whole application hygienic.

    However, there are many applications where a vacuum gripper just isn't necessary. For these, an adaptive gripper is often a better solution.

    3. Identify your suction cup properties

    The suction cup is the "business end" of the vacuum gripper. It will contact with the surface of the object and stick to it by applying the vacuum.

    Choices you will have to make about your suction cup include:

    • What shape of suction cup will I need? The shape of the object's surface and material type will affect the cup shape that you need. 
    • What type of suction cup? The common types are flat cups and bellows cups.
    • If using a bellows cup, what stroke will you need? Longer stroke lengths apply more damping which makes them more gentle.
    • How many suction cups will you need? The more cups, the more stable your picking application for larger objects.

    There are so many suction cups available on the market, you will almost certainly be able to find one which suits your application. If you're struggling to choose, make sure to ask a question on the DoF forum or reach out to our team directly.

    4. Decide if you need external air

    We provide two vacuum gripper solutions: EPick and AirPick. The only difference between them is that AirPick uses an external pneumatic supply whilst EPick uses an integrated vacuum generator. Everything else about them is exactly the same.

    Does your application need an external pneumatic supply?

    Your answer can have a big effect on your application.

    Reasons you might need an external supply are:

    • Porous materials — Materials with a high porosity cause air leakage which can only be counteracted by an external supply.
    • Low cycle times — An external supply has a higher airflow so allows for quicker pick-up and put-down times. As a result, you may be able to achieve lower cycle times.
    • Security is vital — Both the EPick and AirPick have the same 10kg payload capacity. However, an external supply will allow for a higher vacuum level (i.e. a stronger vacuum). This can improve the security of the grip.

    5. Pick your configuration

    You've chosen your suction cups. You've chosen your vacuum supply. The final thing to choose is the configuration of your suction cups.

    There is probably an infinite number of ways you could configure the suction cups.

    The Robotiq Surface Grippers (EPick and AirPick) come with three standard configurations: 1 Air Nodes (with 1 suction cup), 2 Air Nodes, or 4 Air Nodes arranged in a rectangle. However, these configurations are only suggestions.

    You can configure the suction cups however you need. All you need to do is build a simple bracket to hold the Air Nodes in whatever configuration makes the most sense for your application.

    Picking a vacuum gripper can seem daunting at first. There are a lot of different decisions you have to make.

    However, the decision doesn't have to be difficult.

    Just take it one step at a time. 

    New Call-to-action

    What questions do you have about picking a vacuum gripper? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or the DoF professional robotics community.

    Read more »
  • What's New In Robotics?  17.05.2019


    Good morning.  In this week's news mix:  RIA releases new cobot standard, new survey finds growing demand for automation in warehouses and SK President Moon Jae-in meets Doosan's cobots.  We also encounter a swimming microrobot for drug delivery, meet bots inspired by whales and hummingbirds and much more!

    Cobots & manufacturing

    The Robotic Industries Association's standards committee released RIA TR R15.806 a new standard for testing pressure and force in cobots this week.  The standard "describes test methods and metrics for measuring the pressures and forces associated with quasi-static and transient contact events of collaborative applications."   It also also provides "guidance on determining conditions of the test measurements, measurement devices, and accurate testing methods."  (H/T ControlDesign)

    Fitz-Thors Engineering, Inc. has released video of an LBR iiwa cobot implementation designed to handle complex vision inspection tasks.  Here the cobot checks electrical wiring in domestic appliances...

    Driven by the need to manage high-velocity operations with limited labor resources, more warehouses and DCs than ever before are looking to automation to help them solve their most pressing fulfillment problems, according to the results of Modern Materials Handling's 2019 automation survey. 

    Credit: Peerless Research Group

    Via Modern Materials Handling:

    Over the next 24 months, 57% of companies plan to shop around for conveyor and sortation systems, while 55% want automated packaging solutions and 50% will invest in robotics for picking. Fifty-percent are interested in mobile collaborative robots, 47% in shuttle systems/mobile robotic storage, and 47% in robotics that are used for palletizing.

    West Pharmaservices released video this week showcasing its  WEST PCR Pallatizing Collaborative Robot system, which can handle up to eight boxes a minute...

    Nearly 55% of total commercial robots shipped in 2024 (more than 915,000 units) will have at least one ROS package installed, according to a new report from analyst firm ABI Research.  ROS is an open-source framework for building operating systems for robotics. 

    Robotics Business Review (RBR) unveiled the RBR50 2019 this week.  Now in its 8th year, the RBR50 represents the world's top 50 robotics companies.  This year, with the help of market analysts IDC, RBR sought companies with proven commercial success and transformative technology.    Recipients included Robotiq, Universal Robots, and Yaskawa. 

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in spent some time with a cobot from Doosan this week...

    The International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2019 begins next week in Montreal, Canada and four of Canada's "fastest growing robotics companies" --Robotiq, Kinova, Element AI and Clearpath Robotics-- will be there "to represent the nation's rise as a global leader in innovation and robotics technology."  (H/T Robotics Tomorrow)

    And in other cobot and industrial automation news:



    Researchers from Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and City University of Hong Kong unveiled a whale-inspired, remote-controlled soft robot this week that can swim through the body and change shape in order to conduct targeted drug delivery against cancer cells.

    Credit: City University of Hong Kong

    Via EurekAlert:

    Researchers combined cardiac tissue engineering, a 3D-printed wing structure and a light-sensitive gel to produce the soft robot with start-stop capability. The switchable device transforms its shape when exposed to skin-penetrating near-infrared light, causing it to drive and brake through fluid environments like the human blood stream. 

    CNBC profiled, specifically the firm's 'Virgo 1,' a tomato-picking robot that can pick without bruising and is better than humans at detecting ripeness. 


    CNBC reports:

    The Virgo is a self-driving robot with sensors and cameras that serve as its eyes. A “system-on-module” runs the Virgo’s AI-software brain. A robotic arm, with a dexterous hand attached, moves gently enough to work alongside people, and can independently pick tomatoes without tearing down vines.

    Researchers at Virginia Tech, USA are developing algorithms and machine learning tools to make search and rescue drones more effective.  One of the keys to their work is answering the question: 'Can we train drones to understand how lost humans behave?'

    Search and Rescue teams wait for drones to complete an initial field survey during a field training exercise. 
    Credit: Sheri Trbovich Weber County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue

    Scientific American reports:

    Nicole Abaid, an assistant professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, used algorithms to develop a mathematical model of what humans do in such situations. “Someone with dementia, when they're lost, will behave significantly differently than like a child or a despondent person,” Abaid says.

    In other headlines:

    • New AI Sees Like a Human, Filling in the Blanks  (UT News)
    • Underground Robots: How Robotics Is Changing the Mining Industry  (Earth & Space Science News)
    • The social animals that are inspiring new behaviours for robot swarms  (Robohub
    • Socializing Robots  (NewsWise
    • Vintage found photos of robots  (boingboing

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

    Five vids for Friday

    1.  Brown University researchers have developed an algorithm that enables a robot to teach itself how to develop the strokes required to reproduce human sketches and handwriting.  (TechXplore has the details.) 

    2.  Ten years ago, inspired by the octopus, Cecilia Laschi, Professor of Biorobotics at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy developed the world's first entirely soft robot. Today, soft robotics is a well-established part of the robotics world.  (FetFx has more.)

    3.  Researchers at Canada's More-Than-One Robotics Laboratory at the University of Prince Edward Island have created a system that enables a human operator to control a robot swarm using simple gestures.  

    4.  Experts at the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan unveiled a robot inspired by land leeches this week.  The bot's motion mechanism uses tubular shower hose to emulate leeches' light weight and flexibility.  (H/T The Robot Report

    5.  In the latest episode of NPR’s 'Future You' series, Elsie Hu visits the University of Houston, where researchers are developing mind-controlled robot suits designed to transform the lives of people with disabilities.  (H/T NPR)


    Read more »

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  • Wissenschaftstag Centralstation: 50 Jahre Mondlandung - Warum zurück zum Mond?

    Am Donnerstag, den 13.06. nehmen wir den 50. Jahrestag der Mondlandung nicht nur zum Anlass, diesen Meilenstein der Raumfahrt zu würdigen, sondern auch darüber zu sprechen, warum und wie der Mond in Zukunft erforscht werden soll. Mit dabei sind ESA-Astronaut Matthias Maurer, weitere Experten der ESA und der PTScientists.

    Warum ist der Erdtrabant so wichtig für Raumfahrt und Wissenschaft? „Der Mond ist unser Geschichtsbuch“, sagt ESA-Astronaut Matthias Maurer. Die Erde hat sich in den zurückliegenden Jahrmillionen verändert, der Mond jedoch nicht. Er hilft uns, die Entstehungsgeschichte der Erde und des Sonnensystems zu verstehen.

    Read more »
  • Start einer neuen Kooperation für Mond-Missionen

    Das Berliner New-Space-Unternehmen PTScientists und ArianeGroup haben sich am 8. Mai auf eine weitreichende Zusammenarbeit für zukünftige Mondmissionen geeinigt, die dem Ziel der ESA entspricht, mit Partnern zusammenzuarbeiten, um nachhaltig zum Mond zurückzukehren.

    Read more »
  • Erddiagnostik aus dem All

    Vom 13. -17. Mai findet die weltweit größte Erdbeobachtungskonferenz in Italian statt. Wissenschaftler berichten über umwelttechnische Entdeckungen und Fakten zum Klimawandel. Read more »

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