German automotive company Daimler has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with German KUKA AG, a leading systems integrator and robotics manufacturing company. The partnership focuses on human-robot cooperation to achieve optimizations both for production workers and in manufacturing processes to introduce lightweight robots, originally designed for use in outer space, in an industrial environment.
Employees of both companies are jointly conducting field tests to explore processes such as assembly and in- vehicle screw application. They are also developing systems concepts to make cooperation between humans and robots safe.
Direct human-robot interaction makes it possible to employ trendsetting manufacturing concepts, where the lightweight robot acts as a worker’s “third hand”. The lightweight robot was originally developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) for use in outer space. Its sensitive motorized grippers give it a delicate touch, which enables it to handle objects gently and perform difficult tasks precisely. The robot can be positioned and set up to optimally support workers in terms of ergonomics. As an example, the lightweight robot takes over and performs tiring tasks such as steps that involve handling items overhead. Working with and handling the robot is straightforward and intuitive, which reduces programming time and increases the efficiency of manufacturing processes. Due to their precise performance lightweight robots also contribute to enhanced quality.
This partnership is a continuation of the successful and innovation driven collaboration between the two companies. Daimler and KUKA launched their first joint pilot project at the Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant in 2009. Since then, more than 500,000 rear axle gearboxes have been assembled with the support of the lightweight robot.