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Mobile dual arm robotic workers with embedded cognition for hybrid and dynamically reconfigurable manufacturing systems

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - THOMAS (Mobile dual arm robotic workers with embedded cognition for hybrid and dynamically reconfigurable manufacturing systems)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

Europe is the home to around 2.3 million industrial manufacturing SMEs which represent the 99% of all EU companies. Their range of operations varies from mass production such as in the automotive, all the way to small batch production and even “one of a kind” product variability such as in the aeronautics sector. Robots have been used in the automation of tasks requiring high strength, ultra-high precision and great speed of execution. Their flexibility though is constrained by their inability to move across the shop floor and the lack of cognitive abilities to interact with their surroundings in a dynamic and safe way. Humans on the other hand have dominated the applications where high dexterity, craftsmanship and problem-solving capabilities are required. However, these environments usually contain hazardous tasks and even activities inducing great strain to human operators due to the high repetitiveness and high payloads that need to be manipulated.
The vision of THOMAS is: "to create a dynamically reconfigurable shopfloor utilizing autonomous, mobile dual arm robots that are able to perceive their environment and through reasoning, cooperate with each other and with other production resources including human operators" (Figure 1). Towards meeting this challenge, the overall objectives of THOMAS are to enable:
• Mobility on products and resources by introducing mobile robots able to navigate in the shopfloor and utilize dexterous tooling to perform multiple operations (THOMAS Mobile Robot Platform – MRP and THOMAS Mobile Product Platform - MPP).
• Perception of the task and the environment using a) the individual resource’s and b) collaborative perception by combining sensors of multiple resources
• Dynamic balancing of workload by allowing the resources to communicate over a common network and automatically adjust their behavior by sharing or reallocating tasks dynamically.
• Fast programming and automatic execution of new tasks by a) automatically generating the robot program for new products and b) applying skills over the perceived environment to determine required adaptations
• Safe human robot collaborative environments, eliminating physical barriers, by introducing cognitive abilities that allow the detection of humans and their intentions.

The project is based on industrial applications, aiming to implement the dynamic reconfigurable shopfloor paradigm in industrial environment. The first demonstration from the automotive sector involved the flexible assembly of a car’s front axle while the second demonstration from the aeronautics sector, involved drilling, riveting inspection and surface preparation operations. THOMAS solution has been tested and validated through these two industrial pilot cases. The results shown that by introducing THOMAS solution the following can be achieved:
• Significant enhancement in the operator working conditions by automating the repetitive and strenuous tasks,
• Reduction of the set-up time needed for adding new products in the line by exploiting the mobility concept,
• Achieve faster adaptability of the system when unexpected events occur, minimizing the stoppages of production,
• Optimize the utilization of the available resources,
• Enhance productivity of the system using flexible dual arm resources able to perform multiple tasks at the same time.
The work performed during the last period of the project is summarized below:

• THOMAS Open Production Station (OPS) final version
Τhe finalization of THOMAS OPS included two main group of activities: a) final version of the tools and sensors integrated in the system to support the set of the required manufacturing operations (drilling, sanding, riveting inspection, screwing) and b) integration of THOMAS enabling technologies through a common integration and communication architecture.

• Industrial pilot case execution and performance assessment
The project has been oriented from the beginning around the requirements of two industrial pilot cases targeting on the development of technologies that can address the real manufacturing needs. During the last period the following took place:
o Pilot set up and OPS customization at LMS and TECNALIA facilities,
o Then, both pilots were transferred at the end users’ facilities, STELLANTIS (Figure 2) and AERNNOVA (Figure 3).Technology finetuning activities took place during this step, resulting in the final validated version of the pilot cases.

THOMAS Results
The results generated by the project are listed below:
1. THOMAS Open production Station (OPS) -Mobile Robot Platform (MRP)
2. Multilevel safety for collaborative working environments,
3. Generic Perception modules for robot guidance,
4. Human Robot Interaction Suite for Collaborative Assembly Operations,
5. Digital Twin enabled Task Planning and orchestration,
6. Easy programming Tool/

The consortium was highly active in the exploitation of the above listed results. Each partner clearly defined its Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Exploitations claims in each technology. The CANVAS model has been used for drawing the business plan for each individual result, including a thorough plan on how to reach commercialization after the end of the project. In parallel, the consortium exploited THOMAS results through a) 20 exhibitions in the different partners' facilities, b) participation in 16 public exhibitions, and c) a public exploitation workshop organized at the end of the project. The industrial end users, highly contributed in the exploitation activities by: a) identifying new use cases where THOMAS solution can be beneficial, b) organizing 11 internal exploitation workshops increasing the awareness of their personnel regarding THOMAS technologies.

The dissemination strategy has been carefully planned by the THOMAS consortium from the very beginning of the project. All partners were highly active in disseminating and communicating, resulting in the number of 116 activities (Figure 4), supplemented by regular update on project’s social media (more than 250 posts).
THOMAS identifies mobility as a key enabler for increasing current production systems’ flexibility and modularity. The main difference with past attempts relies in the flexible nature of THOMAS mobile dual arm resources (Mobile Robot Platforms – MRPs) which, unlike existing robotic systems, are capable of moving in different places and undertaking a variety of tasks in collaboration with human operators acting as assistants to them as well as with Mobile Product Platforms (MPP). The impact identified through the validation in the two industrial use cases is summarized below:

• Pilot cell for aeronautics assembly - THOMAS Open Production Station (OPS) customized for the aeronautics pilot case providing the following benefits:
o Reduction of cycle time and product quality by automating part of the process,
o Increase reconfigurability of job shop’s structure through resource mobility,
o Increase ergonomy and health conditions for human operators.
• Pilot cell for automotive moving line final assembly - THOMAS Open Production Station (OPS) customized for the automotive pilot case providing the following benefits:
o Reduction of musculoskeletal disorder of human operators
o Reduction of fixed and part specific equipment,
o Increase flexibility of the line to handle multi product variants assembly,
o Optimize human operator saturation level.
Figure 2: THOMAS Automotive OPS @ STELLANTIS Mulhouse plant, France
Figure 4: Overview of THOMAS Dissemination/Communication activities
Figure 3: THOMAS Aeronautic OPS at AERNNOVA plant, Spain
Figure 1: THOMAS Overall Concept