Adam Wesoly| Apr 12, 2013

New possibilities to save energy when using industrial robots

Matthias-Frische-Siemens

Siemens ‘live’ robotic demonstration at their booth in Hall 9 has proved a real hit with visitors to this year’s trade fair. The exhibit itself shows how innovative new software from Siemens has helped transform the clunky, conventional movements of robots into smoother, more human forms that yield energy savings of up to 50%. For those of you who haven’t been able to see the demonstration, it’s like watching ballet instead of old skool 80’s hip-hop.

I caught up with Siemens project lead and Integration Manager, Matthias Frische at the Siemens booth to learn more.

What’s the background to this project?
Automotive companies are increasingly looking at new ways to improve the energy-efficiency of their production line robots. And 3 years ago, we were invited to collaborate with Volkswagen and the Fraunhofer Institute as part of a joint research project called “Green Carbody Technology” to explore new ways of lowering the energy consumption of robots in automotive production processes.

What was the inspiration behind your solution?
The traditional motion paths of robots struck us as being very edgy and clumsy. They go from point A to B … to C … then D. And we wondered what would happen if we reprogrammed them to move in a more human way, where they cut out the jerky steps of B and C that waste energy and move in a single smooth arc. We took our inspiration from everyday situations where we as humans have to move in an optimal way, like lifting a crate of beer into the back of a car for example. Then we applied our findings to a test robot to see
what would happen.

And were you surprised by the results?
We were amazed! We had expected this approach to save up to maybe 5% energy. But the first results from the lab were showing 30, 40 and even 50% savings as we experimented with different motion paths.

What kind of benefits does this new system offer?
There are three main benefits: Firstly, obviously the energy savings of up to 50%. Secondly, the smoother motion paths mean there is less strain on components so the robot will last longer and require much less maintenance. And thirdly, believe it or not – the robot actually performs tasks more quickly.

What kind of reactions have you been getting from visitors so far?
The main reaction is very much “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” I mean the idea seems so commonsense. It just goes to show how simple ideas often lead to the biggest innovations. There’s also been lots of interest from people in the automotive industry that see the scalable opportunities with this. Just imagine if you have a hundred robots on a production line that you can save energy with – that’s a massive boost to your efficiency. Many of the maintenance guys have also told me how they’ve been asking programmers to adopt this kind of approach for some time. So they’re very happy to see this too!

How long before we see this new technology actually in operation then?
We are currently using our findings to enhance our Tecnomatix robot programming software. The plan is then to make the first prototype available to the automotive industry. And beyond that, we’ve already identified new improvements that will bring even greater efficiencies.

Learn more about all of the Siemens highlights on display at this year’s Hannover Messe.

Do you have any other ideas on your mind where human movements can be implemented to save energy?


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