Fraunhofer Institute Delivers Web-based Tool to Improve Cobot Safety
Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF) brings businesses a free online tool for safely designing cobots.
The Fraunhofer Society is an applied research organization that focuses on developing health, communications, security, and environmental issues technologies. The society has 75 institutes and research institutes in operation throughout Germany.
Cobots work effectively with employees in the field. Image used courtesy of Fraunhofer
Research scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF) created a web-based design tool known as the Cobot Designer. The tool was developed to help companies design cobots more safely.
Digital Hazard Protection
For cobots and humans to work safely side-by-side, companies must first ensure that specific safety standards are met, and any potential operational hazards are accounted for. Companies must also think about the operational efficiency of the robots they wish to purchase. If a company desires a cobot with reduced working speed to ensure its workers’ safety, the cobot’s efficiency will also be reduced. This can affect the overall efficiency of the cobot-human system and business productivity.
For instance, if the robot’s speed needs to be reduced by 50% for safety reasons, then the cobot’s economic efficiency is also reduced by 50%. Fraunhofer saw this issue and decided it would be useful to provide the industry with a free economic feasibility analysis before purchasing a cobot.
Before a robot is certified for safety, it is first put through testing and must have certain parameters such as force and pressure measurement. This is so that safety requirements for human-machine collaboration can be met.
The measurement process can be expensive for small businesses, and robots can be bought for use too quickly with measurements being taken too late. Researchers from the Fraunhofer IFF developed the free Cobot Designer to provide digital hazard protection to businesses and bypass expensive measurement procedures.
The Cobot Designer
Users can enter parameters for the robot, hazard, and tool into the online design tool. An output will then be generated concerning the effect of human-robot impact and the speed of the bot.
The digital tool runs on any browser and offers the option of loading proprietary, custom robot models. This means that there would be no need to enter parameters. All data entered into the Cobot Designer is free to download and can be used when required. The Cobot Designer does not store inputs, which serves to keep data safe.
Various robots, hazards, and tools can be chosen to simulate a specific workplace scenario with the Cobot Designer. Image used courtesy of Fraunhofer
The Cobot Designer incorporates a biomechanical model that can simulate a person’s pain in the body relating to clamping and impact from working alongside cobots. The model is based on a study conducted by the Fraunhofer IFF and contracted by the German Social Accident Insurance DGUV and the BGHM.
Between 2015 and 2019, the researchers from the Fraunhofer IFF, alongside physicians from Otto von Guericke University Hospital’s Traumatology Clinic, validated the Cobot Designer’s simulation through stress tests with human subjects.
The Fraunhofer IFF research teams hope that the Cobot Designer will provide businesses with a way of designing cobots safely, reducing engineering work and the need for expensive measurements for human-robot collaboration (HRC) applications.