November 03, 2014      

Collaborative robots was a popular topic at RoboBusiness 2014, dominating a half-day workshop on Advanced Manufacturing. Carl Palme, an applications product manager at RBR50 company Rethink Robotics, discussed “flexible manufacturing” and the need for robots to quickly reconfigure their activities to address the ever-changing needs of factory workflows.

Staying true to its word, the Boston-based company has released version 3.1 of its Intera software that allows the Baxter collaborative robot “to manage and adapt to ever-changing, real-world environments.” The key feature in the software upgrade is Rethink’s Robot Positioning System (RPS) that more quickly and easily re-deploys Baxter after common plant-floor variations occur, such as tables being bumped and fixtures being moved. (Check out the video below).

Intera 3.1 will be available on existing Baxter robots through a software update.

Using new technology called “Landmarks” and its existing embedded vision system, Baxter can now switch between tasks without retraining, making the robot work a little quicker without compromising safety. Baxter can now recognize the original locations of the markers, and, when those locations change slightly, can mark the new locations and adjust its movements accordingly.

Baxter collaborative robot running Intera 3.1 with the Robot Positioning System

By accounting for and adapting to common variability on the plant floor, Rethink Robotics is making it easier for manufacturers to deploy Baxter across multiple applications.

Users can define Baxter?s environment with up to 20 Landmarks, and the RPS enables Baxter to adapt to workstation changes of up to +/-50mm horizontally and within +/-10 degrees of rotation, by marking the new Landmark locations and accounting for any accidental movement or shifts in the workspace.

“Manufacturing robots have always been caged, not only to protect the workers around them from harm, but also to protect their precisely configured environments from being disrupted by those same workers,? says Scott Eckert, CEO at Rethink Robotics. ?With Baxter, we brought the manufacturing robot out of its cage by making it safe enough to work next to people; and now, we?ve made it safe for the robot to work effectively in real-world conditions as well, by allowing it to adapt to everyday variations that people naturally produce.”

This Landmark allows Baxter to switch between tasks without retraining. Users can define Baxter?s environment with up to 20 Landmarks.

This update is one of several Rethink has applied to its collaborative robot in recent months. In June 2014, Rethink introduced its Intera 3 software, which made Baxter work twice as fast, with twice the precision. With Intera 3, Baxter add the following skills:

  • Tending to machines such as CNC lathes, ultrasonic welders and press brakes
  • Packing and unpacking of parts and components
  • Line loading and unloading
  • Kitting

Rethink released Intera 2.1 in April 2014.

Rethink Robotics won a Game Changer Award at RoboBusiness 2014 for its Baxter Research Robot, which allows students to engage with the robot right out of the box. It requires software that empowers students in an unprecedented way, while allowing them to collaborate with and learn from their peers.

Baxter Research Robot helps spark new ideas, boost student engagement, and provide a revolutionary continuity of learning, from K-12 through postgraduate education and beyond. The University of Sydney has made Baxter the centerpiece of its new robotics teaching lab, where mechatronics engineering students to learn to program robots for industrial and human-interactive tasks.

Baxter’s user interface allows users to intuitively associate a Landmark to an action

The view through Baxter?s camera of what Baxter is ?seeing? to associate an action with a Landmark.