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Taiwan Improves Manufacturing with AI-Enhanced Robotics

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The convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics has ushered in a new era of innovation within the industry of modern manufacturing, where adaptability and efficiency are paramount. One of the pioneering endeavours in this transformative journey is the Handling with AI-enhanced Robotic Technologies for Flexible Manufacturing (HARTU) project.

Led by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in collaboration with a consortium of European partners, HARTU focuses on multi-robot collaboration and contact-rich assembly. It aims to revolutionise manufacturing processes, driving industries towards the collaborative manufacturing 5.0 paradigm.

According to ITRI, in today’s manufacturing landscape, there’s a growing need for greater flexibility. Traditional assembly lines are often optimised for mass production of identical items, but the market is increasingly demanding a wider range of products in smaller quantities.

The rise of e-commerce and consumer demand for customisation have intensified this trend. To meet these evolving requirements, the HARTU project explores the potential of multi-robot collaboration technologies.

ITRI, known for its expertise in mechanical and mechatronic systems, plays a pivotal role in HARTU. The institute is at the forefront of developing technologies that enable robots to manipulate and assemble objects of varying sizes, shapes, and materials. The focus is on refining multi-robotic manipulation techniques for contact-rich assembly tasks, with an emphasis on hand-tool assembly as a key use case.

Dr Shu Huang, Division Director of ITRI’s Mechanical and Mechatronics Systems Research Laboratories, emphasises the potential of integrating advanced robotics technologies into production lines, hence, by doing this, the nation can continuously enhance production efficiency. Dr Shu highlights that within HARTU, ITRI aims to introduce AI-enabled robotic technologies into assembly systems to create an innovative manufacturing platform.

One of the pivotal aspects of HARTU is the development of grasp and release mechanisms for fixtureless grasp planners. These mechanisms empower robots to manipulate objects without relying on traditional fixtures, enhancing adaptability and efficiency. Additionally, contact-rich assembly learning for fixtureless part handling is being pioneered, paving the way for robots to handle a diverse range of components and materials with precision.

Iñaki Maurtua, HARTU project coordinator, underscores the significance of the project in the context of modern manufacturing trends. He stated that the growing demand for a wide range of products in smaller quantities, coupled with e-commerce services, has driven the need for more flexible manipulation tasks adding that the era of mass customisation requires manufacturing processes that can seamlessly adapt to parts that vary in size, shape, and characteristics.

To meet these demands, HARTU is introducing innovative gripper concepts and leveraging AI learning techniques. These developments empower production lines to handle a diverse array of products efficiently, thus addressing the needs of the modern market.

HARTU is not a solitary effort; it’s a collaborative endeavour that brings together the expertise of 12 European companies and two Taiwanese research institutions. The project, which kicked off in 2023 and spans three years, is funded by the European Union’s prestigious Horizon Europe programme.

HARTU researchers are diligently working on specific manufacturing scenarios to optimise flexibility and production line efficiency using innovative robotic components. Their efforts signify a crucial step forward in the evolution of manufacturing, marking the intersection of AI and robotics as the catalyst for a new era of adaptable and efficient production processes.

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