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LIAA Report Summary

Project ID: 608604
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - LIAA (Lean Intelligent Assembly Automation)

Project Context and Objectives:
Manufacturing is the backbone of the European economy, generating an added-value of 1,630 billion Euros performed by 2.1 million enterprises. Assembly is the most labour-intensive part of manufacturing because many challenges that prohibit the use of available automation solutions clash.
To name just a few: order-related small batch sizes, many variants due to assembly being the last step in the manufacturing chain, lots of different parts and assembly processes. Therefore, many manufacturing companies decided – and still decide - to shift their assembly lines to low wage countries such as China, India and Vietnam causing the loss of many jobs in Europe. To stop this job drain it is crucial to support European manufacturing industries with automation solutions aligned to the requirements of assembly.
Automatic assembly systems are used when large batch sizes over a long time justify high investment costs. In contrast, manual solutions are applied when batch sizes are small or circumstances unpredictable. Hybrid assembly systems try to bridge the gap by combining manual and automatic stations to achieve a balance between investment costs, batch size and flexibility.
Symbiotic human-robot-cooperation aims at combining the advantages of robots for achieving high productivity in structured environments and the capability of humans to adapt quickly in unstructured environments. Humans do the ambitious jobs requiring advanced sensing and reasoning capabilities to adapt to unplanned or unforeseeable situations while robots make use of their ability to handle high loads with high precision without depletion. To make the most of these respective strengths human and robot must work in close cooperation using the same workplaces, tools and fixtures.
Robots and humans in the same loop reduces the need to invest in expensive equipment to help the robot cope with an unstructured environment, and at the same time avoids strenuous and repetitive work that wastes the human capabilities and damages the human body.
LIAA will address the following use cases in an assembly workshop with changing work load and different assembly workplaces:
- Human OR robot work consecutively at a common workplace: depending on the current work load either a human is assembling small quantities of one product at a workplace or a robot is manually put into place if the product is required in high numbers. Human and robot use the same tools and fixtures.
- Human AND robot share a common workplace: depending on the current work load, either a human is assembling small quantities of one product at a workplace or a robot is additionally put into place to support the human if high numbers are required. Human and robot then divide the required assembly steps according to their respective strengths: the robot does the simple and repetitive jobs while the human takes over the demanding steps requiring advanced sensing and reasoning capabilities.
LIAA aims at the development of low-cost, low-complexity robot systems. Low-cost robot systems are enabled by the availability of low-cost robots for about 20.000 € (e.g. Universal Robot UR5), low cost sensor systems for about 200 € (e.g. Kinect-like sensors), by tool sharing between human and robot and by integrating the human in the loop (# symbiotic assembly). The human in the loop will eliminate complex and costly application-specific robot tools and fixtures otherwise required by the robot system to cope with the types of unstructured environments that are easy for humans.
The LIAA robot systems require advanced software functionality to be productive in close cooperation with a human worker. Therefore, an intelligent programming and control system is the core of a LIAA robot system and therefore the focus of the efforts within LIAA. Of course, this complexity will be hidden from the worker interacting with a LIAA robot system.
Ultimately, robots will become common tools for human workers on assembly shop floors.

Project Results:
So far the following progress was made:
In WP01 the pilot cases were documented in terms of product attributes, workplace environment, quality control, logistics and organization. This description serves as a baseline for the identification of automation potential in hybrid workplaces.
Within WP02 the requirements of Lean Intelligent Assembly Automation Framework, as well as the underlying methodology were defined in D02.10. Within this deliverable the features extracted from the user stories as they relate to the 5 RTD WPs were clustered into software components. Initial architectures of the WPs’ LIAA framework subsystems were drawn. Finally, the relevant information collected from each pilot case (OPEL, DDE, SPINEA, FISCHER and TELNET) with regards to the subsystem were collected and documented.
Within WP03-07 the following results were achieved:
• LIAA Design process defined, specifically the generated contents were structured in the LIAA Design file and the corresponding software tools were integrated in the LIAA Design tool chain.
• The uniform task description editor was developed and an algorithm for choosing the most efficient task to resource assignment was implemented.
• A design conceptualization tool was implemented, which is able to identify potential hazards and suggest suitable safety measures.
• The AR-enhanced human instructions editor was implemented, which is able to generate from the uniform task description appropriate AR-augmented instructions for the worker
• Skill Executor with corresponding configuration tools (for vision, for safety, etc.) implemented and tested using the SPIENA pilot case.
• Enhanced support for ROS command handling in order to support various use case scenarious.
• For 3D content conversion from 3D Automate (VIS) to EON Professional (EON) two main formats have been implemented, .obj and Collada (.dae).
• Design of dynamic model representing the real word considering passive objects, humans and robots.
• Implementation and testing of ROS based interfaces that are able to collect information regarding human activity (HAR-Task 7.2), robot state (SOEC, UR driver - Task 7.3), static data from LIAA file, relevant to the plan of tasks and the geometry of the workplace (UTD – T4.1, Resource mapping – T4.3, Balancing - T4.4), DCT (WP03 tool chain) and variant hardware digital sensors.
• Situation Assessment /Error Handling Module developed and released.
• The UR controller can be set into a controllable state, to allow real-time online control.
• The URCaps platform allows third party developer to seamlessly integrate new capabilities into the UR controller and GUI.
• Developed Real-Time Data Exchange (RTDE) for hierarchical control-loops(UR)
Within WP08, the project has started working on the integration of the various software tools by clustering them according to the phase they are used in: Design, Configuration and Run-time.
Within WP09, 5 virtual demonstrator were developed and 5 test-beds were implemented to validate the software modules. The project is currently on transforming those test-beds into the end-users’ demonstrators.
Within WP10 exploitation of specific software modules and hardware pieces are underway.
Within WP11 the following actions have been performed, towards the dissemination of LIAA activities.
• Presentations: 17
• Info Points: 14
• Publications: 5
• Patents: 1
• Videos: 2
• Thesis: 5
Finally, within the next period, the focus of the project will be on three main activities:Integration, Exploitation and Validation.

Potential Impact:
Expected Results:
The final result of LIAA is a software framework that can be used to develop, implement and control lean hybrid workplaces. The framework is envisioned to have the following features:
• A Symbiotic Workplace Design Tool containing criteria and metrics to measure a workplace’s suitability for symbiotic assembly, safety concepts and finally design principles for symbiotic workplaces.
• An Assembly Workshop Symbiotic Planning Tool, that contains a Uniform Task Description that can be translated into instructions for humans as well as robot programs, resource models for humans and robots; algorithms for resource assignment based on capabilities and scheduling algorithms taking into account current work load.
• A Symbiotic Robot Execution Environment containing models describing the current state of a symbiotic workplace; sensor based human activity recognition algorithms; human activity prediction algorithms; instantaneous program adaptation strategies to avoid unsafe situations; exception handling and error recovery.
• AR-based Human-Robot-Interfaces and natural 6DoF interaction, which allows the user to interact with the robot in every situation in an intuitive and productive way.
• Robotic Assembly Skills: a skill formalism and skill instances based on this formalism are the basis for robotic assembly, special skills for local referencing and calibration and a work flow to generate robot programs automatically based on a task description and skill instances is key to deploying robots into symbiotic workplaces in short time and without expert knowledge.
The only viable option in the competition with low wage countries in traditional manufacturing processes is the increased productivity resulting from the wide-spread adaption of robots in the manufacturing process. LIAA aims to overcome the obstacles inherent in traditional automation (e.g. investment cost, complexity, etc.) through a lean automation approach, integrating robots as co-workers/ production assistants in manual workplaces. This will enhance the competitiveness of European manufacturing companies and will support the retention of manufacturing jobs (31.7 million jobs directly and double that number in related services) in Europe. This will in turn stabilize employment figures, especially for highly skilled staff.
In addition to stabilizing the employment figures, new high-tech jobs will be created in European automation companies and especially in the robotics industry, which currently has 55.000 employees [160].
Project No.: 608604
Period number: 1st
Ref: 608604_LIAA_Periodic_Report-11_20141211_112926_CET.pdf
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By adopting a lean automation approach, LIAA intends to enable robot applications for flexible small scale manufacturing, thus opening up new market opportunities for the robotic industry. Based on the number of persons employed by SMEs in the manufacturing sector for the EU-27 - approx.
18.7 Mio - and the average robot density encountered in the automotive industry ~ 1,100 per 10,000 employees, there is a market potential for approx. 2 million robots as opposed to the current 400,000.
Granted that those robots will rather be in the low-cost category (<5Kg payload and <25,000 €); this still represents a potential market of 40 billion €. Based on the cost ratio of robot to peripherals, it is estimated that there is at least another 40 billion € market potential for peripherals and system integration. The LIAA approach will make robotic automation more cost-effective, thus increasing robot penetration into small-batch production.

List of Websites:


Walter Krause, (EU Projects Officer)
Tel.: +49 89 1205 2713
Fax: +49 89 1205 7534
Record Number: 191730 / Last updated on: 2016-11-21
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