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Motor behind imagination

HUMANufacturing: Comau to launch innovative Industry 4.0 solutions at Hannover Messe

Comau puts on display the factory of the future. Smart, flexible, connected, where men are at the center of the production process and their interaction with machines is made efficient and safe by collaborative robots and digital technologies.


In order to meet the challenges and needs of an ever-changing market, and in the framework of the fourth industrial revolution, factories are transforming into environments characterized by versatile, modular and scalable automation systems. The production process is becoming articulated through the use of "cyber physical units", which are intelligent, easy-to-use, capable of working independently and in total safety with men. These units are also connected to other technologies within the factory and are adaptable to any customization needs in the production process.
Stand C04, Hall 17 will host the HUMANufacturing Area, where Comau will demonstrate how Industry 4.0 works, thanks to a cell in which every unit interacts with the system and, more importantly, with the operators who are the center of the activity in all of its phases.
 
In fact, the process is designed and developed by the operators themselves, who monitor the performance and cooperate with the units in absolute safety, while performing control and support tasks which require high levels of quality and precision.
For the first time, Comau will show men, robots and industrial machinery working in perfect synergy inside the production process.
 
Inside the work area, the operator and a Comau SmartRob, the company’s automated assembly station, interact with two AGILE1500 automated guided vehicles (AGV) and an industrial high-payload AURA (Advanced Use Robotic Arm) collaborative robot. These tools are connected among each other wirelessly, collecting and managing information generated by PLC system.
 
The demonstration is started by a Comau operator together with a tradeshow visitor, who will experience the use of the most innovative digital mobile technologies available in manufacturing.
The first steps needed to verify and confirm the start and traceability of the work cycle are carried out through a smartwatch. This is possible thanks to an App developed in partnership with another Italian company, Engineering. In view of a more complete and intelligent interaction between man and machine, the smartwatch is not only used as a tracking system connected to a factory MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) for the collection, organization and integration of process data, but also as an HMI to "communicate" with the automated equipment, e.g., to receive notifications about the machine status or to send control settings.
The use of this intuitive mobile device makes tasks easier and less burdensome for the operators, who can perform all the required actions directly within their work areas without the need to access the control and programming stations of each machine.
 
Inside the cell, two Comau AGILE1500 AGVs handle two mechanical components for the automotive sector – an endothermic engine and a hydraulic automatic transmission – in complete autonomy, with different trajectories and speed. Following a preconfigured path, the first Comau AGV takes the engine to the collaborative AURA robot, which picks it up by means of a collaborative gripper. In total safety, the robot approaches the operators in an ergonomic area, so that they can perform quality control operations and precise interventions. This allows a company to assign the heaviest and most repetitive tasks to the robots, while the operators can manage the preparation and supervision phases of the work process.
 
The AURA robot is coated with a special surface designed for industrial environments, which allows it to perceive the presence of the operator or of any other automation system and slow down or stop in case of need. In particular, AURA operates through the combined use of perceptual and predictive control systems which allow it to cooperate with men in any industrial process in a safe and intelligent way.
 
Right after the control operations, the endothermic engine is repositioned on the AGV by the robot, which carries it toward SmartRob, the automated assembly station. There, a Comau NJ4 110-2.2 robot performs mechanical assembly operations which vary depending on the type of engine supplied by the AGV. SmartRob is an extremely flexible multiprocess cell, equipped with an automatic tool-change system which can select a specific tool depending on the operations to be performed.
 
During the process and in simultaneous action with the first AGV, the second Comau AGILE1500, which handles the hydraulic automatic transmission, crosses the cell in a "continuous moving" mode – e.g., advancing with high sensitivity at reduced speed – while working in complete ergonomics with the operator, who can move in total safety around the vehicle and simulate small assembly operations on the component. This implies an important advantage: the possibility to perform a more specific and precise control, thanks to the technical skills and the visual and tactile sensitivity of the operator, without the need to remove the component from the AGV before taking it to the SmartRob station.
 
At the end of the cycle, the operator performs operations of virtual maintenance by working directly on the fluid system of the SmartRob cell via a second mobile device: a tablet featuring an augmented reality App, which was again developed thanks to the collaboration with Engineering. The operator, after scanning the fluid panel with the tablet, quickly obtains intuitive and simple instructions for the technical inspection of the machine and its components, without the need to refer to dedicated manuals.
This also enables the operator to be visually guided through the various activities necessary for the resolution of technical problems or for replacing components.
 
In order to give the visitors a better idea of the full potential and production efficiency of a digital manufacturing process, Comau has equipped the cell with an IoT Totem, which incorporates Comau’s IoT Box concept: an intuitive tool which allows the real-time digital monitoring of the cycle data and eventual anomalies of each unit – and, potentially, of the entire production process – with a consequent optimization of the overall work process.
 
The overarching theme characterizing the demo at Hannover Messe 2017 is of the centrality of men in the production process. This vision also represents a fundamental reference point for Comau’s research and innovation activities, which are developed through the collaboration with leading international business partners, universities and research institutes, in the framework of two important programs, namely Horizon 2020 and Fabbrica Intelligente (Intelligent Factory) of Regione Piemonte.

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