From Outer Space to the Factory Floor
The TransFIT project centres on implementing a collaboration scenario in which astronauts and robots build an infrastructure together. This interaction aims at more than just the division of labour, however. Another goal is for the robot to learn from human assistance to become increasingly autonomous and to optimise its suitability and adaptability to the particular requirements. "The robots should develop capabilities allowing the systems to perform complex assembly work such as gripping, holding and joining pre-assembled components autonomously or together with people. Direct man-machine collaboration permits tasks to be solved and implemented effectively using the strengths of both participants whilst compensating for their weaknesses", explains project manager Dr. Elsa Kirchner.
Transfer to the Industry 4.0 context
In addition to implementing the extra-terrestrial collaboration scenario, TransFIT aims to transfer the technologies developed in the project to industrial manufacturing and production. "We’re pursuing the goal of using robotics as a key technology not just in astronautics, but also implementing it in industrial applications. Robotic space systems offer a high transfer potential based on their robustness and automation; they operate independently and without maintenance for extended periods and over long distances", says Dr. Frank Kirchner, head of the DFKI Robotics Innovation Center and the Robotics Working Group at the University of Bremen.
To this end, project partners are developing a highly flexible and collaborative assembly cell to produce complex sub-assemblies such as compact mechanical or electro-mechanical devices that would be built purely by manual work using today’s state-of-the-art technology. The cell should be capable of implementing abstract task specifications – autonomously and without the need for detailed programming – in collaboration with a human worker.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) is funding TransFIT over a term of four years through the German Aerospace Center (DLR).