EU projects – Technology Scouting – Business Innovation

Increasing productivity with collaborative robots: H2020 insights

Collaborative robots or Cobots (co-bots/ co-robot) are increasingly becoming popular and mainstream especially in manufacturing industries and with SMEs due to their affordability. Growth in their application is mainly being driven by the following industries: automotive, aeronautic, metal and machining, furniture and equipment, food and beverage, as well as plastic and polymers. These robots are designed to be safe to work alongside humans owing to their safety features that are designed to reduce the risk of harm. The features include rounded design and their force-limited joints that sense forces due to impact and quickly react by dissipating these forces, therefore, averting danger to humans and destruction to surfaces and property.

Within the Horizon 2020, there are about 20 projects related to collaborative robots and robotics. Five of the projects are funded by the Innovation Action (IA) scheme, nine via the Research and Innovation Action (RIA) scheme, six are funded through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) scheme, two projects within the SME Instrument and one project each funded through European Research Council (ERC) sand Coordination and support action (CSA) schemes, respectively. In the H2020 programme, the key players active in the collaborative robots’ technological area are TNO (Netherlands), Technalia (Spain), Fraunhofer (Germany), Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), UNIMORE (Italy), KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), CNRS (France), Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy), KU Leuven (Belgium), TU Dresden (Germany), and IMEC (Belgium).

Some of the innovations from projects funded through RIA and IA funding schemes are highlighted in this insight. These include:
  • Building collaborative aerial robotic workers with the capability to autonomously conduct infrastructure inspection and maintenance tasks – AEROWORKS (RIA).
  • Technology fostering for SMEs by creating a methodological and technical framework to allow adaptation of robotic solutions and putting in place infrastructures and environments that will act as clustering points for selected application areas in manufacturing and for product lifecycle management – HORSE (IA).
  • Developing new automation concepts for aircraft assembly by employing innovative technologies such as collaborative robots, movable robotics platforms, grippers, compact and lightweight robots. This is aimed at achieving high production rates and reduced costs with maximum production flexibility – ACOTAAL (CS2-IA).
  • In the niche of consumer entertainment robotics, a humanoid robot will be developed. This robot will have the capabilities of interacting and engaging with the public autonomously and naturally in the dynamic environments of a public shopping mall. – MuMMER (RIA)
  • Creating an integrated system for collaborative robotics which can deliver kits, tools, parts and hold pieces on the factory floor during assembling processes – ColRobot (IA)
  • Developing a hybrid work cell for inspection purposes with advanced robotic capabilities while acknowledging the cost implication of fully automating industrial operation and leveraging on cost-efficient human-robot cooperation – CRO-INSPECT (CS2-RIA)
  • Deliver the most advanced but flexible space autonomous system suitable for single and/or collaborative space robotic missions which demand robust operations with adaptable levels of autonomy ERGO (RIA)
  • In order to address ethical concerns on the future of robotics including job replacement, there is need to offer proactive steps towards ethical and responsible robots by suggesting radical changes in current robot design procedures – REELER (RIA)
  • Improving the interaction of human and robots in the workplace by endowing robots with the ability to control physical collaboration through intentional interaction. This will be achieved via force and motion tracking technology, robot learning using cognitive models of human behavior in collaborative tasks and innovative technology for helping humans through predictive physical collaboration – An.Dy (RIA)
  • As a continuation of previous projects (COMET, SAPHARI, and poliMATIC) develop Symbiotic Human-Robot Solutions for Complex Surface Finishing Operations to automated polishing techniques in manufacturing processes aimed at complex shaped metallic surfaces – SYMPLEXITY (IA)
  • Equipping a collaborative and inherently safe assembly robot with cutting-edge sensory and cognitive abilities as well as reasoning abilities required to plan and execute an assembly task for easier and quicker adaptability and installation in an assembly line – SARAFun (RIA)
  • With the rise in labor costs, especially in automotive and the aeronautics industrial sectors, mobile dual arms robots will be created with abilities to perceive their environment and through reasoning, cooperation with each other and with other production resources including human operators and even be able to navigate in the shop floor and utilize dexterous tooling to perform multiple operations – THOMAS (IA).
Forthcoming Horizon 2020 calls related to robotics are:

  1. SRC – Space robotics technologies,
  2. ICT-09-2019-2020: Robotics in Application Areas,
  3. DT-ICT-02-2018: Robotics — Digital Innovation Hubs,
  4. ICT-10-2019-2020: Robotics Core Technology.