Robotics 'briefs'


Developments are going forward on various fronts in robotics. Here's a recent sampling that includes robotic trends from a Frost & Sullivan study, robot training and education from The Technology Collaborative of Pennsylvania and from Kuka Robotics Corp ., and a nimble Japanese "sushi" robot from Suzumo Machinery Co. Ltd .

Autonomy for robots, or the ability to "make more coherent decisions independently," is a key robotic trend, according to World Emerging Robotics Technology ," a study and service from Frost & Sullivan. With robots moving from indoor to harsh outdoor environments, their ability to survive and "make decisions out of the matrix of choices available in their internal programs" must be developed, says the study. Among other ongoing issues and developments are introduction of surgical robots into the battlefield medical arena, urgent need for a standardized platform to integrate various software modules for one robot to perform multiple functions (including vocal commands and image processing), and overcoming social issues such as peoples' fear of robots.

Robot education is vital

Signing of partner agreements and introduction of a pilot 2+2+2 robotics career pathway educational program has been announced by The Technology Collaborative (TTC)—a statewide economic development organization that supports the growth of Pennsylvania's robotics, cyber-security, and digital technologies industries. This workforce development partnership connects a high-school robotics program at A.W. Beattie Career Center to Associate and Baccalaureate degree programs at California University of Pennsylvania , with guidance and support from Carnegie Mellon University .

Objective of the partner agreement is to develop a unique and articulated robotics technology curriculum, with guidance from industry so that the program will meet the growing and underserved technician and technologist needs of the region's robotics companies. A 2004 TTC workforce study identified unmet robotics workforce needs that can be filled by a robotics education program. The 2+2+2 program will train students to use, manufacture, test, evaluate, and repair commercial and military robots. Students completing the program will receive 15 credits of advanced placement into an Engineering Technology associate degree program at California University.

Fall 2005 represents the pilot semester for parts of the 2+2+2 curriculum at Beattie Career Center and California University; the full curriculum is scheduled for the Spring 2006 semester. In its role as program manager, TTC is purchasing robots and supporting hardware/software for instructional use at each school.

Kuka Robotics Corp. held the grand opening of its Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) training facility in Appleton, WI, on Oct. 21, 2005 and a public open house on Oct. 22. Live demonstrations of robotic systems for various applications such as packaging, milling/grinding, and welding were featured during the open house. The FVTC facility is the company's second training center in the U.S.; the other is located at Kuka Robotics' U.S. headquarters in Clinton Township, MI.

The new 10,000-sq ft training center will use Kuka robots and software to teach 27 programming, application, and maintenance classes to company customers. Courses will be offered in robot programming, servicing, and cell design. A curriculum highlight is the training program for qualification as a Kuka Certified Robot Professional in one of the three technical areas: Robot Technician, Robot Programmer, or Robot Administrator.

And 'sushi' robots

Ability to produce wrapped sushi at up to 2,000 per hour is no small accomplishment. Yet it's the reported performance of a miniature robot being released by Suzumo Machinery Co. Ltd. of Japan at the end of Oct 2005. SGP-SNA robot is said to use a special film that "generates negative ion" to wrap sushi. The film is easily removed when eating the delicacy. The micro robot comes with an optional printing device that automatically prints out date of manufacture and company logo on the wrapping film.

SGP-SNA micro robot was exhibited at the 2005 Japan International Packaging Machinery Show in Tokyo, Oct.18-22.

—Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering

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