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2 min reading time
Story 148 – 1999 – Innovation

Hand in hand with the future

In the future, robots will work smoothly together with humans

Robots are increasingly taking over monotonous or physically demanding tasks. The trend is towards collaborative devices that are flexible, mobile and "thinking" when working together with people. These robots are already being used successfully in the business unit Engineered Products.

It is already impossible to imagine many production processes without robots. They now perform a variety of tasks that would have seemed unthinkable just a few decades ago. By definition, a robot is a programmable multi-purpose handling device for moving material, workpieces, tools or special equipment, suitable for a wide range of applications thanks to the freely programmable motion sequence. Recently it has become common practice to speak of a robot only if it has three freely movable axes.

Such "steely colleagues" have been in use at Wieland since 1999. While the early examples still performed their work in a largely monotonous way – and often without consideration for humans if they got in their way – the focus of modern robots is on hand-in-hand cooperation with humans – and thus also on the ability not to be limited to only one simple work process.

The latest so-called HRC robots (human-robot-collaborations) open up new possibilities. Mobile and flexible in use, they enable not only productivity but also quality improvements. This is especially true in areas where monotonous or physically demanding human activities have been necessary in the past – for example in machine loading and unloading, parts handling or packaging.

The business unit Engineered Products has been testing such a mobile HRC robot since 2018. What makes it special is that, unlike many of its older "colleagues," it does not work in a protective cage, but in a capacitive sensor sheath. Sensors and cameras ensure that man and machine can work together safely and productively. Initial experience suggests that the future belongs to collaborative robots.

Engineered Products already has 24 "classic robots" in use today. It is no wonder that apprentices now receive specific theoretical and practical training on a specially provided training robot. The cooperation with their "steely colleagues" will later become a natural part of their everyday work.

Monotonous and physically strenuous work is increasingly being performed by ‘colleague’ robot, here for example the loading and unloading of a cleaning system.