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Streamlining robot motion cuts energy consumption

26 Aug 2015

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According to the result of a novel optimisation algorithm developed by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, by reducing the acceleration of industrial robots, energy consumption can be slashed by up to 40 per cent, while retaining the given production time.

Optimisation of the robot's movements reduces acceleration and deceleration, as well as the time the robot is at a standstill since being at a standstill also consumes energy.

"We simply let the robot move slower instead of waiting for other robots and machines to catch up before carrying out the next sequence. The optimisation also determines the order in which the various operations are carried out to minimise energy consumption, without reducing the total execution time," said Bengt Lennartson, professor at Chalmers who initiated the research together with, among others, General Motors.

The optimisation never changes the robot's operation path, only the speed and sequence.

Research group at Chalmers

From left: Kristofer Bengtsson, master's student Emma Vidarsson and Bengt Lennartson in the Robotics and Automation Laboratory at Chalmers University of Technology. The research group at the department of signals and systems also includes PhD students Oskar Wigstrom and Sarmad Riazi. The optimisation tool is being developed in the EU research project Areus. Photo: Oscar Mattsson

"Thus, we can go into an existing robot cell and perform a quick optimisation without impacting production or the current cycle," said Bengt Lennartson.

To achieve safe optimisation, several robots moving in the same area need to be coordinated. The optimisation tool will therefore initially identify where robots may collide, and the entry and exit positions for each collision zone, and for each robot path.

"The first test results have shown a significant improvement, such as a 15-40 per cent energy reduction, but the results are still preliminary. In order to estimate the actual energy savings, further testing in industry is required," noted Kristofer Bengtsson, who is responsible for the implementation of the new optimisation strategy.

In robot-intensive manufacturing industries, such as bodywork factories in the automotive industry, robots consume about half of the total energy used for production.

The optimisation programme starts by logging the movements of each robot during an operations cycle, as well as any collision zones. This information is processed by the optimiser, which generates new control instructions that can be directly executed by the robots.

"The goal is to make this kind of optimisation standard, and included in robots from the start. At each adjustment of the operating sequences, a new optimisation is conducted by default. But as we all know, it takes time to bring a development product into a robust production process, with several years of engineering work," said Kristofer Bengtsson.

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