A number of trends can be observed within the automation area affecting the robotics research directions in general. Some of the most important trends from the market perspective are ease-of-use, simplicity, reduced cost, increased performance, as well as reliability. The research program in LINK-SIC is industry motivated and it is inspired by these trends. To achieve ease-of-use and simplicity in the programming it is of outmost importance that the robot follows the desired programmed path with a high accuracy. One of the aims of the research program is therefore to increase the robot performance by further development of the robot control system. The other industry-motivated objective that is currently covered in the research program is to ensure increased reliability of the robots by utilizing advanced condition monitoring and diagnostic algorithms.
In the industrial robotics project the topics modeling, identification, sensor fusion, diagnosis, and control design are covered. This includes both theoretical work and extensive experimental activities at ABB. The activities are currently concentrated to the following two sub-projects:
- Robot fault diagnosis
- Modeling and control of robotic manipulators
Previous works within the research area industrial robotics in LINK-SIC are described in the past work section, which includes worka on modeling and identification, sensor fusion and control, as well as robot fault diagnosis. The academic results in the industrial robotics area are three licentiate thesis, four dissertations and about 50 publications in journals and pier reviewed conference proceedings. In addition three patent applications have been filed together with ABB.
From the industrial robot trends mentioned above a number of research challenges related to the research area industrial robotics can be formulated. One challenge is to keep or increase the robot performance, despite the continuous cost reduction of the mechanical manipulator. The control concept must therefore be further refined, for example to make it possible to adapt model parameters to the robot individuals and to take care of more complex robot dynamics. In commercial robot arms the control is based only on motor angle measurements and the control therefore relies on accurate dynamic models to effectively control the arm of the robot. In applications with requirements on high robot control performance it will also be necessary to increase accuracy and robustness by introducing additional sensors in the arm system of the robot.
Another challenge is also to improve the diagnosis and to be able to plan the maintenance without disturbing the production. Accurate robot models are also needed for reliable diagnosis and the problems with increasing model complexity and larger model variations must be handled in the diagnosis case as well. Clearly, additional sensors will open up for improved tracking accuracy but also for more precise diagnosis functions.
The research results within the industrial robotics project can be applicable to other mechanical systems such as vehicle powertrains, camera gimbals, cranes, excavators, airplanes, etc.