The Robot That Can Retain Danish Jobs

Anders Billesø Beck

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The Robot That Can Retain Danish Jobs

Lack of flexibility has been a hurdle preventing companies from taking the necessary steps into automation for a long time. Now, a new cooperation between Danfoss, The Danish Technological Institute, Technicon, University of Southern Denmark, and Aalborg University demonstrates new and more flexible opportunities with robots within the MADE initiative.

MADE’s objective is to enable Denmark to become one of the most competitive manufacturing countries in the world and a value adding partner in the global supply chain. An important step in achieving this goal is the creation of a strong manufacturing research community, which is an integral part of a healthy manufacturing ecosystem. A healthy manufacturing ecosystem is based on three key components; applied research, innovation and education.

- This MADE project collaboration is about making low volume productions profitable by running several different sequences on the same robot, including sequences for products that are not known when the robot is installed. This requires the robot to be easy to readjust and flexibly adaptable to both current and future processes, says robot consultant Andreas Holmetoft Lyder from The Danish Technological Institute.

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The robot is currently being tested at Danfoss’ production facility in Denmark where it is configured to pack thermostats. Ongoing efforts aim to future-proof the robot so that it can handle new tasks as required. Automating production with flexible robots will help retain Danish jobs.

The robot uses advanced vision technology to distinguish between different items.

- The special thing about this solution is that it is able to handle mixed items. The items are strewn in a single layer on a surface and an overhead camera differentiates the two item types, detecting their position and orientation so that the robot can decide which one to pick up, says Ph.D. student Simon Mathiesen from Southern University of Denmark.

The robot is a result of research transformed into reality.

- From an academic standpoint, it has been an exciting business case because we have been able to apply some of our research to a case in the “real world” and for a company that can actually benefit from it, says Michael Hansson, Ph.D. Fellow from University of Aalborg.

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Many companies consider moving all or part of their production to countries where the labor costs for manual and less specialized processes are cheaper. These types of robots can make the future of these companies look brighter.

- Wage costs will be significantly lower. With this project, it will be possible to man a workstation ten percent of the time instead of one hundred percent of the time. We will be able to manufacture products cheaper, products that the customer wants, explains Troels Kjærskov, Product Engineer from Danfoss A/S.

- This solution solves problems, which can also be found in many companies. They have some manual work processes that are too uncommon to be worth automating using current robots. That is why we created a flexible solution which can gather various processes onto one robot. So we get a better business case and a better production, says Casper Hansen, CEO for systems integrator Technicon APS.

In the video above, you can watch how the flexible robot handles different tasks.

The project is a part of the research from the MADE project under the theme “Hyperflexible Automation”. MADE is a strong partnership that will improve the competitiveness of Danish manufacturing. The partnership consists of a number of manufacturing companies, universities and GTS-institutes (Advanced Technology Group) and is supported by the Confederation of Danish Industry and a number of private foundations. The purpose of MADE is to aid Danish manufacturing companies to increase and improve their production and become stronger competitors on international markets through their willingness to adapt and the creation of new products for export.

The robot solution is also a part of the research project CARMEN supported by funding from the Strategic Research Council.