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Anna Donato: Wire Cobots has passed into the second phase of ESMERA. So first of all, Congratulations. Can you tell us what is your project about? What are you working on?
Ilaria Palomba: Thank you. It has been really rewarding to pass into the second phase and see the appreciation to continue with our experiment. The ambitious goal of Wire Cobots is the introduction of flexible automation in SMEs. We are designing a flexible workstation for human-robot collaboration that can be useful especially for assembling tasks in the manufacturing sector. The idea is to have a compact and modular workstation with an on-board cobot that can be easily and quickly reprogrammed. The cobot role is to assist the human operator and therefore improve his hard-working condition, ergonomics and, of course, the efficiency of the process.
Anna Donato: In ESMERA, our experiments answer to pre-defined challenges. What is the challenge that Wire Cobots is trying to solve?
Ilaria Palomba: It is a manufacturing challenge provided by the Slovenian company Elvez, a manufacturer of wire harnesses. The company basically asked for a robotics solution able to fulfill assembling and taping tasks while interacting with a human operator.
Anna Donato: In the whole process, are you in contact with the challenge provider?
Ilaria Palomba: Yes, we are. And in particular with the research department, who provided us useful feedback about our solution and sent us the wire harnesses for testing. We are now even in contact with them beyond the ESMERA project, because we for example applied together for a new call within the Horizon 2020 program. So, ESMERA has really gained us a network.
Anna Donato: That sounds great. To add on that, why did you apply for ESMERA in the first place?
Ilaria Palomba: We are a consortium of two partners, a company and a university, having different motivations. Carretta specializes in the design and installation of industrial automation solutions, and they wanted to expand their portfolio to the emerging field of collaborative robotics. ESMERA was a good boost to start developing competences in this field. The Smart Manufacturing Lab of the University of Bozen is working with industry 4.0 anyway. So for us, this call is an opportunity to test our competences on the topic and to use them for further test cases. And also to network, to get partners and contacts, industrial and academic.
We have already recorded a reduction of the cycle time of 12 % and an improvement of the operator´s ergonomics, and the biomechanical overload was reduced in terms of manual handling and working posture of about 40 – 50%.
Anna Donato: You mentioned the networking, where ESMERA has helped establishing contacts. ESMERA offers further support in funding, business mentoring, technical support. Where has ESMERA helped you most?
Ilaria Palomba: It is really great that the ESMERA team supports us in everything we need to develop our solution. To be honest, I would the financial funding still in pole position. Without it, developing an innovative solution is quite difficult. Also, the business mentoring is very well structured and has helped us to set up a – hopefully – successful marketing strategy. We appreciate all kinds of support.
Anna Donato: In what development stage is Wire Cobots right now? Have you tested it in real-life settings and has there been feedback already?
Ilaria Palomba: These days, we are finalizing our industry-compliant prototype. We have not tested it in real-life settings yet. But we tested our previous prototype, a kind of advanced laboratory prototype. We have already recorded a reduction of the cycle time of 12 % and an improvement of the operator´s ergonomics, and the biomechanical overload was reduced in terms of manual handling and working posture of about 40 – 50%. The new prototype will improve them even further.
Anna Donato: With Covid-19, the last weeks and months have almost nowhere been according to plan. Has the whole crisis impacted you and your project´s progress?
Ilaria Palomba: We really experienced strange months, where nothing was normal. In terms of Wire Cobots, we had to change some scheduling, for example the realization of the prototype. And we had planned to attend some conferences and exhibitions, which have either been postponed or cancelled. But nothing is really compromising the successful conclusion of our project.
Anna Donato: Thank you very much, Ilaria. And good luck for the next steps in the development phase.
About the Author
Anna Donato is responsible for PR and Marketing in the EU funded project ESMERA, working at the Technical University in Munich, TUM. She has a background in FMCG communication and, as a freelance team personality coach, is trained in team development and creative problem solving, specialized in the method LEGO SERIOUS PLAY. She includes her experiences in one of her priority projects: training and coaching the robotics startups in the ESMERA project to set up their own marketing and communication strategies.
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