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The European Robot Initiative for Strengthening the Competitiveness of SMEs in Manufacturing

Final Report Summary - SMErobot (The European Robot Initiative for Strengthening the Competitiveness of SMEs in Manufacturing)

'The European Robot Initiative for Strengthening the Competitiveness of SMEs in Manufacturing' (SMErobot) was an Integrated Project within the Sixth Framework Programme which focused on research, development and innovation related activities towards creating a family of cost-effective versatile and easy-to-use robots. The SMErobot consortium has set itself three ambitious innovation goals:

- The new robot should be able to understand' intuitive' commands, so that it can be shown what to do.
- It should satisfy all safety requirements, so that it can share a workplace with humans.
- And it should be capable of being quickly integrated into an existing manufacturing environment: simply plug and produce.

Demonstrations of fully functional prototypes were set up in real small and medium sized (SME) production environments of different manufacturing branches (wood processing, small-batch foundry, forging industry and metal parts fabrication), with support from SME-type end-users and system integrators. Training and education was conducted at all levels, from researcher to possible end-users. The unique composition of the consortium aimed for maximum European impact on worldwide standards. The project started in March 2005 and ended in May 2009 after a project run time of 51 months.

The work performed in SMErobot was marked by challenging research and development goals, intense partner interactions, remarkable public interest, comprehensive outreach through numerous publications both in the scientific and technical press. Among the highlights were:

- The publicly held two-day Final Project Workshop was successfully help on May 07-08, 2009 with presentations and demonstrations of the SMErobot results, http://www.SMErobot.org/15_final_workshop/. Attendants (close to 100 guests) from supply industries, end-users (mostly from SMEs) and research could get hands-on experiences of SMErobot results.
- A series of demonstrator workshops in early 2009 were held at end-user sites to have participants from other SMEs experience the novel SMErobot workcells in real productions, http://www.SMErobot.org/05_SME_involvements/.
- A joint booth of close to 250 qm at AUTOMATICA 2008, the leading robotics trade fair, was carried out, http://www.SMErobot.org/14_automatica/. The SMErobot booth was regarded as a major highlight of the trade fair with remarkable media coverage.
- A final project video was produced to document results, demonstrations and future use of the project's results, http://www.SMErobot.org/15_final_workshop/#final_film. Demonstrator-specific video films showcased results, applications and future use of robotic technologies in specific applications and branches.
- The first project video, called Coffee Break explains the project's aim and approach in an entertaining way has been received with great success in education and industry, http://www.SMErobot.org/download/#video.

The benefits of a SMErobot system for its end-user depend crucially on how the system is integrated into the end user's business. That is why SMErobot also addresses socio-economic aspects with a range of supportive decision-making and training tools. For SME end-users, developers and system integrators as well as for students and trainees the SMErobot toolbox was designed. It contains a broad array of web-based interactive training and education modules, instructions and checklists for creating a wide knowledge base on the implementation, use, and development and implementation of SMErobot systems.

The SMErobot toolbox also provides end-users with a training module – human-centered automation assessment – with which they can assess their implementation strategy for a robot system. SMErobot also offers a range of tailored business and financing models within an intuitive, yet powerful life-cycle costing tool for evaluating the economic benefits of a new robot system. The software delivers a reliable comparison of the costs and benefits of different financing models or between using a robot and working manually.

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