Fit4Work is part of the Fit4Age project, a research network comprising several institutions and companies with the focus of improving life for elderly people, which is funded by the research foundation Bayerische Forschungsstiftung (BFS).The Fit4Work project itself has three research foci: the first is to plan methods for assembly systems and structures, the second is organization of logistic systems and the third, which the chair for Robotics and Telematics is working on, is a robot assistant.
The aim of this part of the Fit4Work project is to develop an intelligent, robot-based assistance system that can support workers in their physical labor in industrial assembly lines. The manipulator should especially relieve the human operator physically by taking over the weight of the work piece, while the operator can move the robot simply by grabbing the work piece and pushing/pulling it in the right direction. This intuitive way of controlling the robot is made possible by employing a six-component force/moment sensor. This system combines the superior strength and accuracy of an industrial robot with the higher human comprehension of the situation in the work cell.
Here, human and robot are required to work alongside each other; this sharing of the work space requires new and reliable safety concepts in order to avoid collisions between the manipulator, human and the surroundings. Besides, as the worker often does not have experience in robotics, intuitive assistance functions have to be developed to allow the personnel to easily use the robot assistant and make changes to the working cycle if necessary.
This assistance system should be capable of being integrated in to already existing assembly lines, allowing workers, especially the elderly (possibly already suffering from some form of musculoskeletal disorder) to keep working at their station longer and with less wear-out, while at the same time keeping up the productivity of the company.