Designed and developed by Stäubli Robotics in 2017, HelMo is an innovative and mobile robotic system that can navigate through its workplace independently. It continuously monitors its environment by means of three integrated laser scanners. The robotic system can ensure that tasks are completed in a fully automated way and at high speed. If needed, it can also work alongside human employees.
As companies around the world conceptualize about the production scenarios of tomorrow, Stäubli is silently preparing a serene future for itself today. In the context of the pilot project HelMo, employees are now working side-by-side with a mobile and autonomous robot system.
When HelMo reports for work each morning in Stäubli’s assembly hall in Bayreuth, Germany, it’s a scene reminiscent of a sci-fi film. The mobile robot system navigates independently to its workplace, reduces its speed or stops when human colleagues come too close, then sets off again purposefully.
Among the various tasks assigned to the system, the complex assembly work requires a high degree of precision. HelMo must prepare for that. In practice, the procedure is as follows: the robot positions itself precisely to within a tenth of a millimeter, calibrating its position via three measuring points permanently installed at the workstation. It’s only then that the shift can begin.
By observing HelMo’s tasks in greater detail, we quickly understand why the workforce is more than happy to entrust these types of jobs to the robot. To assemble electrical connectors for coupling systems is extremely dull and tedious work. Each contact pin must be inserted precisely into the connector. It’s one repetitive motion after another: pick up the pin, position it precisely, then push it into place. Pin after pin, connector after connector, hour after hour. The monotony is one thing, increasing the number of errors over a prolonged work period is another. HelMo always works perfectly, demonstrating constant precision at all times.
If we look over the robot shoulder as it assembles the connectors, we can clearly see what Gerhard Geyer, Project Manager at Stäubli, means when he speaks about “assistant”. HelMo moves around the workplace as naturally as any human employee. It picks up an empty connector housing and places it precisely into a device. It then takes a plastic container of pins off the shelf, travels to the flex feeder and empties the pins onto the belt, which separates them. It picks up the pins one by one and fits them rapidly and precisely into the connector. Once the assembly process has been completed, it puts down the loaded connector housing and starts another assembly process.
If today’s job consists mainly of connectors assembly, tomorrow the robot could be used for partially fitting a laser inscription system or any other specialized task requiring a mobile robotic system. The primary goal of the ongoing pilot project is to integrate HelMo into existing processes productively and efficiently, while collecting experience for future use in volume production.
To use HelMo as flexibly as possible in the industrial environment of the future, the Design and Intralogistics departments in particular must point the way forward. Only then can innovative, human-robot production strategies, like those being anticipated by Stäubli in Bayreuth, be implemented successfully.
HelMo is an innovative, mobile robot system that can drive and navigate autonomously. It continuously monitors its environment using three integrated laser scanners. The robot system can either perform tasks fully automatically at high speed, or collaborate with humans if necessary.
HelMo is based on a TX2 standard robot. The six-axis TX2touch 90L has a maximum carrying capacity of 15 kg and a range of 1,200 mm. This machine was developed for direct human-robot cooperation. In order to satisfy high safety requirements, the six-axis robot has a complex safety package including safety control system CS9. Another distinguishing feature is a Safety-Skin. This touch-sensitive surface stops movements immediately in the event of direct contact with humans. All safety functions are certified and meet the strict requirements of safety category SIL3-/PLe.
“The mobile robot system is modular and has an automatic tool change system. That allows HelMo to be used for a wide range of purposes and to take unpleasant work off the staff’s hands. We see it less as a robot and more as an assistant who is always there when you need it”, emphasizes Stäubli Project Manager Gerhard Geyer.
“When HelMo is available as a standard product, probably next year, we plan to make it highly flexible for as wide a range of tasks as possible. Like all Stäubli products, it is to be launched with a high availability and process reliability. Testing the system under real conditions in our own facility is definitely the perfect way to prepare for that.”