FANUC is promoting the creation of a comprehensive robot for use in the workplace. A robotic platform that enables genuine social collaboration between people and robots is what the EU-funded research project “Fluently” aims to build. The objectives of the three-year project include the creation of a specialised training facility called ‘Fluently RoboGym’, as well as a sophisticated AI-based wearable gadget for humans and robots.

The initiative, funded by Horizon Europe, the EU’s largest research and innovation funding programme, involves a total of 22 partners from around the world. Technical coordination is provided by the Laboratory of Automation, Robotics and Machines at SUPSI, the Swiss University of Applied Sciences. In addition to experts from SUPSI, the initiative involves researchers from several leading universities around the world, such as Waseda University (Japan) and the Politecnico di Torino (Italy).

Professor Anna Valente, head of SUPSI’s Automation, Robotics and Machines Laboratory and member of the Swiss Science Council, says that workers are often under significant cognitive or physical stress. When a person and a robot work closely together, it is essential that the robot recognises the human’s feelings and adapts its behaviour as necessary.

Modern smart factories, where production volumes and products are constantly changing, require effective collaboration between people and machines. The industrial robots manufactured by FANUC Europe have sensors to see and sense, but are not yet able to identify human emotions. They want to make it easier and more efficient for more people to use their robots,” said Ralf Völlinger, General Manager of FANUC Europe’s Robot Division.

The disassembly and recycling of batteries for electric bicycles and electric vehicles, inspection and assembly procedures in the aerospace industry, and the reconditioning of highly complex industrial parts by laser processing: these are the three value chains on which Fluently researchers are focusing their development work. These value chains are crucial for the European economy.

These procedures are now almost entirely manual, which stresses employees both physically and mentally,” says Professor Anna Valente. “The roots of this stress come, for example, from the handling of large parts in the aeronautical sector or the dismantling of explosive batteries.

Professor Anna Valente says: “Our goal is to teach robots to become partners to humans and to help them as best we can. “As a robot supplier, we are happy to contribute to this revolutionary breakthrough with our robots and technological know-how,” continues Ralf Völlinger from FANUC Europe.

Over time, robots could relieve workers of some of the stress associated with these operations and take over some of the more time-consuming activities. This outcome would help to preserve workers’ skills and experience, while also leading to possible upskilling efforts.

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