ZEISS Partners with BMW and Universities to Develop Autonomous Measuring Robot for Automotive Manufacturing
ZEISS announced advancements in its latest research project, the new autonomous measurement robot (AuMeRo).
The solution is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and developed in collaboration with BMW, the Institute for Laser Technologies in Medicine and Metrology (ILM), and the Institute for Metrology, Control and Microtechnology (MRM) at the University of ULM.
ZEISS has partnered with industry leaders before to expand robotic solutions in manufacturing. Image used courtesy of ZEISS
Researchers designed the initial prototype for this robot to handle inspection tasks and other tasks to help automotive manufacturing.
Scientific Optics and Robotic Solutions
ZEISS is an international technology company that develops solutions for the optics and optoelectronics industries.
The company creates industrial metrology and quality assurance products. They also manufacture microscopy solutions for the life sciences and materials research medical technology solutions for diagnostics and treatment in ophthalmology and microsurgery.
ZEISS was originally founded in 1846 by Carl Zeiss and is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. In the past century, the company has completed six acquisitions and today counts more than 34,000 worldwide employees across more than 100 facilities.
The AuMeRo Solution
ZEISS has set out to design AuMeRo to eliminate the legacy perception of a rigid production line in industrial automation.
“This established concept could soon be a thing of the past,” explained Manuel Schmid, Product Manager at ZEISS IQS, commenting on the news.
Instead, ZEISS believes individual customer demands are progressively leading to a growing number of product variants and a consequent need for modularization in production. The AuMeRo aims to provide autonomous movement, accurate measurement, and data processing.
The AuMeRo machine. Image used courtesy of ZEISS
From a hardware perspective, the machine comes in a rectangle shape with a robotic arm with an optical measurement sensor at the top and wheels at the bottom.
AuMeRo’s navigation system is equipped with obstacle avoidance and was developed and implemented by MRM. While ILM contributed to the project by providing suitable optical measurement techniques for the special application, which focused on multi-wavelength holography. BMW then tested the machine in a real-world scenario at one of its facilities.
"With the research project, we have been able to demonstrate that the concept works without restriction and can be easily adapted to new objects and measurement plans. This has opened the doors for this technology," explained group coordinator Dr. Matthias Karl.
Industrial Applications of the New Robot
Like most robotic applications, AuMeRo works via dedicated software, enabling users to select an object (e.g., a vehicle door), its approximate location, and the desired measurement plan.
After setting this information, the robot can act fully autonomously, performing object recognition via camera and based on digital twin technology. AuMeRo can also perform actual measurements via optical sensors designed by ILM and using multi-wavelength digital holography.
ZEISS's robots being used on an assembly line in automotive manufacturing. Image used courtesy of ZEISS
"With its ability for autonomous mobility and object recognition, AuMeRo is ready for a future in which mobile, modular manufacturing islands are the norm, and allows measurement to take place wherever and whenever it is needed," said Manuel Schmid, Product Manager at ZEISS IQS.
According to Schmid, manufacturers can already deploy the AuMeRo in product audits, where measurement and documentation are currently done manually in the measuring room.
ZEISS is hopeful that this autonomous measuring robot will continue to make its way further into the automotive manufacturing sector and other sectors of industrial automation.