Symbiotic human-robot collaborations for safe and dynamic multimodal manufacturing systems

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Specific challenge: Immersive and symbiotic collaboration between human workers and robots is a key element to be addressed for the further automation of tasks and processes in the European manufacturing industry. It offers a solution leading to higher profitability to robot-reluctant industries where current tasks and processes are too complex to be automated. Currently novel methods for human-robot interaction have been proven in structured non-industrial environments. In order to enhance the introduction of robots on the shop floor in a real industrial setting, several important human and organisational issues, such as safety and difficult working environments, have to be dealt with. In particular, future human-robot-systems will have to be dynamic and cost-effective, act safely in a shared fenceless working space and allow for the development of specific competences and skills for workers in their interactions with robots. Scope: While the focus will be on demonstrating the multimodal manufacturing systems (e.g. systems combining visual, auditory and haptic interfaces), R&D activities supporting integration and scale-up are also expected. Two key obstacles to overcome to facilitate the introduction of robots on the shop floor of robot resistant production plants are the safety of the worker and the symbiotic collaboration. Demonstration activities should focus on at least two topics of each of the two areas: - Safety of the worker: * Innovative strategies for online safety monitoring such as the interactive perception of the whole workspace as well as directed perception focused on the task. * Development of intrinsically safe robot hardware on industrial scale leading to high power robots which are both safe and precise. * Safety during a mechanical failure of the robotic system during tight collaboration of humans and robots. - Human-Robot interaction: * Intuitive and multimodal programming to allow robot systems to be rapidly and easily programmed without prior knowledge on robot systems, while still allowing for a cost-efficient deployment of the robotic system in an industrial setting. * New methodologies for the initial planning and online dynamic replanning of the shared tasks, taking into account the organisation contexts of the addressed industrial sectors. * New innovative, fast and cost-effective sensors for detection in combination with the application of innovative strategies to analyse real-time large amounts of sensor data. In close interaction with the research activities, relevant certification issues should be addressed. In order to allow a wide use of the newly developed robotic system in new production areas and sectors, a clear case for maintaining reduced investment costs has to be made, including a return-on-investment study. For this topic, proposals should include an outline of the initial exploitation and business plans. Wherever possible, proposers could actively seek synergies, including possibilities for cumulative funding, with relevant national / regional research and innovation programmes and/or European Structural and Investment Funds in connection with smart specialisation strategies. Exploitation plans, outline financial arrangements and any follow-up should be developed during the project. Activities expected to focus on Technology Readiness Level 5-7. A significant participation of SMEs with R&D capabilities is encouraged. The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 4 and 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts. Expected impact: The impact on the areas of application of the projects is expected to be: - Industrial-scale demonstrator of safe human-robot tight collaboration by sharing workspace and tasks, paving the way for potential improvements of the normative aspects. - Increasing use of robot installation in traditional European robot-reluctant industries. In particular SMEs, manufacturing plants with highly manual processes and continuous production lines. Further improvement in robotics solutions deployment will contribute to higher employment as more manufacturing capacity will remain in Europe. - Increasing industrial-readiness and adaptability of human-robot collaborating manufacturing systems by increasing the robustness of those systems for noisy and extreme industrial environments and by combining the flexibility inherent to humans with the enhanced potential of cooperative production systems. - Improved cost-efficiency through the use of symbiotic human-robot approaches. Type of action: Innovation Actions.