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BMW to Use Collision-free, Multi-robot Collaboration Motion Planning Software

March 05, 2023 by Seth Price

The BMW Group announced that it will begin utilizing Realtime Robotics' robotic systems and software for more efficient motion planning and collision-free tandem operation of their industrial robots.

The BMW Group has announced they will begin using Realtime Robotics automation hardware and software. The move aims to improve automation processes at BMW by allowing multiple robots to work in tandem with little chance of collisions. 
 

The BMW Group will begin implementing robotic systems and software from Realtime Robotics. Image used courtesy of BMW Group

 

BMW and Realtime Robotics

While BMW is often associated with top-end automobiles, they also manufacture motorcycles, large trucks, and other motor vehicles. The BMW Group also includes Rolls Royce and Mini, which manufacture cars. Besides optimizing the performance of vehicles, BMW focuses on building sustainable, lean manufacturing processes, which explains their interest in Realtime Robotics.

Realtime Robotics has nearly a decade of experience perfecting the integrations between robots. In particular, they specialize in collision-free, multi-robot collaboration, which allows for increased productivity. If one robot raises throughput, two robots should raise it twice as much—and they can, with the proper planning.

 

Tandem Operation

Consider a large bin of randomly-oriented, inflated footballs that need to be packaged for shipment to the retailer. A single packaging technician would work through the bin, select a football at random, and perform the packaging operation. Multiple workers could perform the same task, communicating back and forth (often non-verbally) to keep them from grabbing the same football or bumping heads while reaching into the bin. 

 

Realtime Robotics makes it possible for industrial robots to work together. Image used courtesy of Realtime Robotics

 

While humans can perform this task with few collisions, noticing those subtle, non-verbal cues naturally, robots cannot. The simple solution would be to place a cage around a single robot and let it pick footballs at random, giving it very few things for the robot to collide. Place two robots at the same bin, running independently, and they will eventually collide. They will target the same football, or move into each other’s path, leading to damage and potential injury of nearby workers.

Suppose instead that there was a way for multiple robots to share the same mapping and routing. The robots could detect the footballs and check movement paths in real time and the future, ensuring that the robots will not move into each other’s way in their next predicted movement.

 

RapidPlan Motion and Control

Realtime Robotics has made this vision a reality with its RapidPlan software system and hardware integrations. RapidPlan uses automated path planning to ensure that all robots in the system can play nicely together, performing their duties faster and more safely than humans, working independently yet in a coordinated manner. 


Two Kawasaki robots, using RapidPlan move quickly past each other, performing spot welds. Two robots are always better than one! Image used courtesy of Realtime Robotics

 

Besides having multiple robots working together, RapidPlan uses 3D computer topographic scanning to map out parts. This makes the system much more versatile, especially during picking operations of randomly-oriented parts, as the 3D scans can determine where the objects are in real time instead of having to pre-program fixed locations of parts to be handled.

The BMW Group will be able to leverage this integration mechanism to increase throughput during assembly and inspection processes. The 3D scanning capabilities will allow robots to perform on production lines of different vehicle models, requiring little reprogramming.

 

Robotic Choreography

Humans can share a vision, so to speak. They can agree that bumping heads and crashing into each other while working should be avoided, and they can communicate with each other to minimize these collisions. With the help of Realtime Robotics and their RapidPlan, robots can do the same, working together to plan movement routes and ensure speedy operations and high throughput without costly or dangerous collisions.