Additive Manufacturing

SEP 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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MFG TECH COUNCIL SEPTEMBER 2018 Additive Manufacturing 20 One of the most intriguing developments in manufacturing technology involves the emergence of self-learning robots that capitalize on advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques. This enables them to handle new jobs and even work side-by-side with humans on the shop floor. These advanced robotics systems are gaining new "senses" with improved touch, sight and language processing skills that enable them to move more easily, switch their "hands" as they go through a multi-step process, and discern a variety of different objects and manipulate them in unique ways. Rather than requiring complex programming to handle specific tasks, they are picking up new skills from their human partners (employee, meet your co-bot!) and even tapping into massive databases to learn from other robots around the world. "Traditionally, industrial robots have been locked behind cages, their heavy bulk and rapid movements making them unsafe for human interaction. They have required highly trained programmers to set their tasks and, once installed, were rarely moved. Now, a lighter weight, mobile plug-and- play generation is arriving on the factory floor to collaborate safely with human workers thanks to advances in sensor and vision technology, and computing power. Get in their way and they will stop. Program them with a tablet or simply by mov- ing their arms in the required pattern; no coding is necessary. And if the robot is needed in a different part of the factory— unlike the heavy robotic arms that populate the world's auto- motive factories and are bolted to the floor—they can be easily moved," writes Peggy Hollinger in The Financial Times. There are several companies that are pushing the envelope in robotics today. One of these, Osaro, has developed AI software that can be deployed across multiple robotics systems, through partnerships with manufacturers. The company describes the AI platform as "deep reinforcement learning technology," and claims its tools will enable adapting commodity hardware into powerful systems for applications in advanced manufacturing. Another company, CloudMinds, is striving to build exactly what its name implies—a cloud-based mind that can hold data and machine learning capability that robotics tap into to learn new skills and share their own "experiences." Up there in the cloud, CloudMinds will host natural language processing, vision, speech recognition and what the company calls "robot control unit" (RCU) capabilities. "Integrating with robot onboard sensors and providing a secure data communication path to cloud AI, the RCU enables intelligent control and seamless switch-over between AI and human-in-the-loop systems," the company reports. CloudMinds recognizes the difficulty of embedding deep learning capabilities in individual robots and sees the cloud as the only way to maintain, update and easily distribute the intelligence for the future factory. There are also a variety of cross-industry and research approaches to this same concept, such as the RoboBrain initiative out of Stanford University. Osaro and CloudMinds are just a couple of examples of the many companies advancing the state of the art in self-learning robotics. For example, Rethink Robotics is a leader in collabora- tive robots that team with workers on the floor, and Kindred's new robots are working in warehouses and e-commerce environ- ments handling a wide variety of products and items and getting better at it through machine learning and human partnership. With many manufacturers facing a shortage of skilled work- ers, the advent of self-learning robots is a boon. And, as AI and machine learning capabilities, as well as the cloud, continue to advance, the potential for even more adaptability and intelli- gence in robotics seems virtually limitless. The Advent of the Intelligent Robot By John Gallant Executive Producer Manufacturing Tech Council CATEGORY: A Automation

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