Robotic update: Honda’s ASIMO; Kuka’s 6-axis, shelf-mount robot

Available for various fits, forms and functions, robotic technology also is gaining sophistication. A prime example is Honda Motor Co.’s ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) humanoid robot, which in its latest version incorporates a level of mobility approaching that of humans.


Available for various fits, forms and functions, robotic technology also is gaining sophistication. A prime example is Honda Motor Co .’s ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) humanoid robot, which in its latest version incorporates a level of mobility approaching that of humans. ''Industrial strength'' sophistication is exhibited by Kuka Robotics Corp .’s new KS Series shelf-mount robots, intended for injection molding and related manufacturing duties. Some details on each of these robots follow, along with links to their manufacturers' Web sites and more information. This technology ''snapshot'' is just a glimpse of further developments to come from robotics.

ASIMO grows and prospers

ASIMO is about 60% the size of an “average” human, and growing: It measures 1.3-m (4.26 ft) tall—an increase of 0.1 m from the current model—weighs 54 kg (119 lb), a gain of 2 kg; and can operate continuously for 1hour, double the time of the current model.

Regarded as the world’s most advanced two-legged robot, the latest version of ASIMO humanoid robot from Honda Motor Co . exhibits a total of 34 operating degrees of freedom (DOF)—an increase of 8 DOF over the current model. Yet, control sophistication goes beyond human-like mobility to include extremely fast information processing that allows the robot to interact with people. ASIMO features three key technologies:

  • Posture control enables natural, human-like running. A combination of new high-response hardware and software lets ASIMO bend or twist its torso to maintain balance and prevent problems of foot slippage and spinning in the air that occur with higher speed movements, according to Honda. ASIMO can now run at 3 kmph (1.86 mph), while its walking speed is 2.5 kmph—up from 1.6 kmph.

  • Autonomous continuous movement allows ASIMO to take a flexible route to its destination without stopping. It does so by comparing any deviation of information between its input map and that obtained about the surrounding area from its floor-surface sensor. ASIMO can autonomously change its path based on obstacle detection provided by the floor-surface sensor and visual sensors located in its head.

  • Enhanced visual and force sensors detect movement of people around the robot to permit smoother interaction with people. Force sensors have been added to the wrists. ''ASIMO can now move in sync with people, allowing it to give or receive an object, shake hands in concert with a person's movement, and step forward or backward in response to the direction its hand is pulled or pushed,'' says Honda.

Numerous motion-control-related functions add to ASIMO’s mobility. Its hip rotational joint helps increase walking speed, while two additional motion axes in each wrist make bending movements more flexible. Honda says one motor operated all five fingers in the previous model. Now, an extra motor adds independent thumb motion so the robot can hold various objects. Another axis added to the neck joint enhances the robot’s expressiveness.
To obtain human-like running, Honda’s Posture Control technology had to solve the twin problems of 1) accurate leap and absorption of landing impact, and 2) prevention of slipping and spinning. The latter problem proved to be the biggest control challenge to increased running speed. Honda’s solution was to develop a new control theory, which combines Honda's independently developed theory of bipedal walking control with proactive bending and twisting of the robot torso.
And ASIMO is not ''shy.'' Its capabilities have been exhibited and widely demonstrated. This includes touring of engineering and computer-science schools. In Control Engineering’s purview, for example, it was part of Hannover Industrial Fair 2004 in Germany. It participated in the fair’s opening ceremonies—interacting with human dignitaries on the podium, including Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor of Germany. (

See April 28, 2004 Control Engineering Daily News

.) Kuka shelf-mount robots raise injection-molding productivity

Kuka Robotics Corp . has introduced its new 6-axis, shelf-mount robots designed for top loading and unloading of injection-molding machines. Improved low-profile design of KS Series robots for platen-mounted applications reduces ceiling height requirements on molding machines up to 1,200-ton capacity. Kuka’s shelf-mount design provides a ''greater downward working envelope,'' compared to standard (floor-mounted) robot models to improve flexibility and cycle times of user applications, says the company.

KS Series shelf-mount robots are available in three models (KR 16, 30, and 60), with payloads up to 60 kg (132 lb) and vertical reach up to 1.8 m (5.9 ft) for part removal. Besides applicability for top-mount integration onto injection-molding machines—for part unloading, insert loading, de-gating, and other post- mold processes—KS Series robots also are well-suited to die-casting machines and for machine-tool tasks, such as loading/unloading, palletizing, deburring, and marking of parts.
''Our customers have made it clear they need the flexibility of the 6-axis robot but with the low profile capability of a shelf-mount form factor,'' says Joe Campbell, director of strategic alliances for Kuka Robotics. ''The KS Series is ideal for optimizing space while increasing accessibility to the work cell.''

Kuka Robotics Corp., with its parent company Kuka Roboter GmbH (Germany), is one of the world's leading manufacturers of industrial robots, with annual production volume approaching 10,000 units, and an installed base of more than 60,000 units. The company's other 5- and 6-axis robots have a payload range of 3 to 500 kg and a reach of 0.635-3. 7 m—directed from a common PC-based controller platform.

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering,

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