In the following interview Dr. Roko Tschakarow, Business Unit Manager Mobile Gripping Systems of SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG talks about current developments and trends in the field of service robotics.
Mr. Dr. Tschakarow, the motto of the this year’s SCHUNK Expert Days on Service Robotics is “Robots with Impact”. How are you assessing the current market situation?
Amazon and DHL have presented the first flying robots, which transport parcels by air mail directly to the door of the recipient. Google systematically invests into highly innovative robotic companies. There is no doubt: The development speed of service robotics has achieved a new peak in the past twelve months. There is a particularly significant potential in intelligent, mobile applications.
What role does SCHUNK play in service robotics?
For many years, SCHUNK performs pioneering work in the field of mobile gripping systems. The standardized SCHUNK grippers and SCHUNK lightweight arms are mobile in use and have significantly influenced service robotics. Now we take the next step forward and have founded a private limited company for the business unit “SCHUNK Mobile Greifsysteme”. With an own team and their own goals: Recognizing new automation scenarios, evaluating potentials, and for giving strong support to pilot users in developing ready for series solutions.
What is the focus of this new business unit?
Five relevant fields of application are in the main focus: There is the field of “hazardous environments”, these are explosive, radioactive, hot, toxic or strongly polluted environments: The deactivation of explosive devices, the non-destructive material testing of nuclear reactors, of sandblasting of steel constructions. SCHUNK modules are successfully used in all of these fields of application and minimize the danger to life and limb.
A second focus is the field of “laboratory automation,” the intelligent automation of lab applications. The issue here is to exclude the human factor as an error source, to relieve skilled employees from routine work, and to continuously document the analyzing processes by comprehensibly passing material samples through various analysis stations. Our customers automate cement testing labs with SCHUNK Powerball lightweight arms all around the globe for example. Service robots are taking over the handling of material during semiconductor production, and therefore lower the particle contamination in cleanrooms. The third field of application is the “material handling”. Here, the goods transportation in the industrial production has to be automated in a way that each station can be independently and individually controlled, loaded and unloaded.
And the other two fields of application?
The fourth field of application is the “Health Care”: From the acute medicine to rehabilitation and care applications. In connection with the imaging techniques, such as nuclear spin or computer tomography, doctors are supported by service robots for these tasks in the future, which require a particularly high accuracy. But also for recurring activities, which have to be carried out under controlled conditions, or assisting tasks in the operating room are performed by robots. Under the term “special subjects”, SCHUNK summarizes special applications, such as service robots for film and TV, or for industrial cleaning.
What role does SCHUNK assume within this diverse market?
SCHUNK consistently focuses on its core competence: Modules for gripping, manipulating, and handling. At the beginning, committed entrepreneurs and engineers are required, who have ideas, and develop new applications. Particularly for Germany, as an industrial location, we see an excellent chance, since even today there are numerous tasks which can be carried out only under high physical stress. Service robots are going to take over such tasks in future, or are giving support. In this connection we assess the SCHUNK Expert Days on Service Robotics as an impulse-giver, and an ideal communication platform for users and system integrators.