Robot Safety: Filling the Gap between Technology Offer and Industry Needs, for a Fully Deployable Human Robot Collaboration.

When: October 5th , 2018, 14:30 – 19:00

Where: Madrid Municipal Conference Centre, Spain, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Intelligent Systems, IROS2018

In the latest years Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) and collaboration is enabling new robot applications especially thanks to the last generation of collaborative robots; this is particularly true in manufacturing processes, where robotics technology can play a fundamental role in helping and supporting operators during the execution of heavy and repetitive tasks.          In traditional industrial robotic applications, robots and operators are well separated by physical cages; they work and operate in different and well-defined spaces with no possibility of interaction. However, the possibility of having operators and robots sharing a common workspace would permit to improve manufacturing processes, e.g. increasing the production rate and/or giving more flexibility to it. From a regulatory point of view human robot interaction starts to be considered in the present normative. The new ISO TS 15066, in particular, specifies the 4 modalities of interaction between human and robot which are currently allowed, namely:

  • Safety-rated monitored stop
  • Hand guiding
  • Speed and separation monitoring
  • Power and force limiting

Exploiting the above points, a new generation of collaborative robots has been developed, with the aim of enabling HRI, through a safe workspace sharing between the human operator and the robot. However, depending on the tool used by the robot or on the application itself, even collaborative robots need additional safety sensors or physical barriers in order to be safe, according to ISO standards. In particular, the ISO 13855 is defining a restrictive safety distance for robotics applications that must be taken into account during the risk assessment, making the advantages of a collaborative application becoming less effective. In some cases, collaborative robots are not providing any benefits from a regulatory point of view compared to Industrial robots.

The exact same regulation applies to industrial robot that are extensively used in applications that require great accuracy/repeatability and that nowadays would like to be used in a less restrictive way from a workspace point of view. This is particularly applicable for small size industrial robots used to manipulate sensors or for machine feeding tasks.

Human Robot Collaboration becomes then extremely limited, lowering the interest of Collaborative robots and preventing industrial robots from extending their applications.

On the other hand, a lot of algorithms and technologies have been developed, both at academic and industrial level, to improve safe human-robot interaction. These include the usage of sensor like 2D/3D cameras, robot skins or torque sensors, to be able to have both capabilities of obstacle (human) avoidance and contact detection/reaction strategies. These software and hardware technologies could enable many new HRI-oriented tasks, including real collaboration that could find its place in nowadays applications.

People from regulatory are moving forward in this direction, with the objective of enabling safe human-robot collaboration applications. Unfortunately, a gap between research results and safety standards still exists: understanding how all these technologies can be used and deployed in industrial applications becomes a fundamental step towards a fully certified collaborative environment between the operator and the robot.

The workshop aims at collecting contributions from the invited speakers coming from the industrial, academic and regulatory sectors, encouraging an open discussion on what are the blocking points/requirements for these technologies and algorithms to be used in real applications. These inputs will help the robotics community in defining the way forward in order to achieve a safe and largely deployable HRI within industrial contexts. The expected output is a “manifesto” from both industrial and academic points of view to advance proposals and request feedbacks to the regulatory committees. The manifesto will permit to initiate changes in safety for robotics and unlock industrial applications.

Topics of interest

  • Industrial Robot Safety
  • Human Robot Coexistence/Collaboration
  • Regulatory Standards

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