Today, in conjunction with the Robotics VO, National Science Foundation (NSF), and The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Community Community Consortium (CCC) is releasing a report on the Opportunities in Robotics, Automation, and Computer Science.
The report is a result of an October 2013 workshop at the White House Conference Center in Washington, D.C. The workshop brought together 28 participants from industry, academia, and government to discuss opportunities in advanced manufacturing for robotics, automation, and computer science. The goal of the workshop was to frame a set of concrete problems that could be used to guide academic basic and applied research that would support advances in manufacturing, perhaps though the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) solicitation.
The workshop report highlights seven challenges and obstacles:
Automating the automation: According to the IFR World Robotics 2009 the cost of deploying an automation system can be split into 20-25% for the robot, 20-30% auxiliary hardware and 45-60% systems integration.
High performance: Today most of the accuracy is achieved through electro-mechanical and structural design rather than through integrated systems design. A few systems have started to emerge such as the Electro-Impact system for precision processing, but at a very significant cost.
In-process inspection: There is a lack of standardized perception modules that would allow for faster deployment without customization to individual applications. Today it is common to separate processing and inspection.
End effector technology: For R&D there is a very limited availability of high quality flexible end effectors. For deployment in the factory domain it is not unusual that the cost of the end-effector is the same as the cost of the robot.
Co-robot safety: Co-robots present a significant challenge in terms of safety because robots and humans have to share a common workspace. How can it be ensured that there are no accidents in such a setup?
Modularity/Standardization: The availability of standardized solutions or modules has the potential to significantly reduce development and deployment time and cost.
Simulation: Simulation is a key capability that supports both design of a manufacturing process at the process level as well as providing direct support of planning and control during execution.
The workshop report also identified three important areas that need immediate attention:
1. “Automate the automation” – streamlining the design of assembly lines and the deployment of robots to reduce the time to start production, independent of the product mix or volume. This in turn points to the need for research and development on model- based design, simulation and analysis for manufacturing automation enabling the optimal setup, design, and implementation of new assembly lines.
2. Abstractions and representations for middleware – currently the “missing middleware” makes it difficult to generalize from successful deployments of components for specific tasks and transfer solutions across different manufacturing equipment and products.
3. Models of collaboration – there was extensive discussion of novel models of collaboration that could give academia more immediate access to relevant problems faced in manufacturing automation and lead to a successful collaborative research and development program.