Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SafeLog (Safe human-robot interaction in logistic applications for highly flexible warehouses)
Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-12-31
The typical way robotized warehouses are organized is the strict separation of humans and robots by fences or other safety measurements like safety light curtains, which – when detecting a human shut down big parts or even the whole warehouse system. In SafeLog we tried to overcome this issue by enabling humans to safely enter the area where the robots are working, without the need to stop the whole warehouse. This opens up new opportunities, e.g. allowing service technicians to enter the area without interrupting the warehouse system, therefore much less downtime. Another use case would be to allow the handling of prioritized tasks by humans, e.g. humans can collect priority orders in parallel to the standard orders executed by the robots.
Therefore the overall objectives of SafeLog were the conception and implementation of a large-scale flexible warehouse system which enables a safe and efficient collaboration of human and robots in the same area at the same time. This included:
1. Safety concept: Design of a holistic safety concept, which allows the collaboration of humans for a flexible warehouse system.
2. Safety vest: Hard- and software design for a new kind of safety vest.
3. Planning and scheduling: Development of planning and scheduling algorithms for a heterogeneous fleet manager.
4. Assisting technologies: AR based interaction strategies to support workers in a robotised warehouse system.
5. Assessment and integration: Integration and Assessment of Use-cases and Scenarios.
6. Dissemination and information: The proposed concept requires a strong dissemination and information concept to inform warehouse-operating companies.
To support the visibility of SafeLog a web site was launched (safelog-project.eu) and continuously updated with news, publications, test sets etc. A flyer, a roll-up and posters were designed. About 65 result presentations at conferences, workshops and other events have been done as well as 5 workshops (co-)organised. A highlight was the participation in the IROS 2018 with a project booth and a large demonstration of the project concept and prototypes. A total of 9 press articles were published addressing the general public to create awareness of the European Funding of SafeLog in addition to a total of 53 scientific publications published since project start.
So what are the main outcomes and achievements of the project? In principle, we can state that we successfully addressed all originally envisioned objectives. Therefore the main achievements are the three technologies mentioned above. Safety concept and technology for human-robot-interaction, planning and orchestrating of a heterogeneous warehouse with human and robots working together and AR-based interaction technologies for supporting humans working in a robotizes warehouse. But one special task of SafeLog definitely worth emphasizing was, that from the beginning the safety concept and the design of the safety hardware was accompanied by the certification body TÜV Nord. So, everything was developed with the idea of certification in mind, which at the current status - then will be achievable short after projects end. Based on these outcomes, SafeLog impacts following topics:
1.) Enhance safe interaction between humans and mobile robots by introducing a new affordable and certifiable technology.
2.) Ubiquitous localization of humans and mobile robots, managing systems with over 1000 units.
3.) Reduction of system wide downtimes with a granular approach stopping only robots near the human in combination with fast replanning of the optimal schedule of impacted robots.
4.) Significantly reduction in installation costs in comparable human-robot collaborative workspaces.
5.) Impact on the European logistic market, and especially introducing a new concept of cooperation between automation and humans in logistics: This impact is covered by the contributions 3.) and 4.)
We think that the future of efficient production, of flexible logistic applications and other upcoming robotized/automated application scenarios lie – even in a high automated environment – in a safe and effective human-robot cooperation and coexistence. SafeLog is addressing these issues directly. So, the long-term prospects of the project results seem very promising. Especially as the SafeLog technologies are not necessarily tied to warehouses. There are multiple areas in production, transport, construction or healthcare sector, which would benefit from the technologies developed in SafeLog.