Ontech Security has developed, through an R&D&I project financed by Corporación Tecnológica de Andalucía (CTA), a security technology that allows robots to collaborate with people in shared industrial work environments.
The technology developed through the project, called OnRobot, consists of a system of sensors coupled with software that enables the ability to discriminate between a person and any object in industrial environments at a distance of less than 50 cm, which allows robots to be installed and work in the same environment and at a short distance from humans. This is a major step forward for the development of the 4.0 industry, as the current industry standard safety measures demanded by robots include separations of very long distances and even physical separation of humans by panels or fences.
The core of this project is based on Ontech´s patented Controlled Magnetic Fields (CMF) technology, a proprietary system developed for its application in the area of domestic security and preventive and invasive detection, among others. Through this project, Ontech in collaboration with the research group of Electronic and Mechatronic Systems at the University of Huelva, has developed a reliable technology that discriminates between people and objects and allows the robot to detect obstacles both horizontally and vertically up to one meter away. The resulting system enables the safe and seamless integration of humans and robots in collaborative work environments. In addition, the installation of this system is quick and easy resulting in minimal downtime to plant operations .
Isabel Hormigo, CTA’s technical manager for the IT sector, explains that “the robotization of certain tasks is a growing trend within the context of industrial 4.0 implementation or industrial digitalization” and clarifies that “it is considered a fourth industrial revolution and consists of the application of new digital technologies to industry to make it more efficient, profitable and sustainable. In her opinion, “the technology developed by Ontech is a very useful advance for the development of the 4.0 industry”. The incentive granted by CTA for this project is fully subsidized by the Department of Economy and Knowledge of the Junta de Andalucía and the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of the Government of Spain.
Oliver Martínez, Director of Public Finance at Ontech, points out that “the use of collaborative robotic solutions (operator-robot) promotes the shift of the production model towards customized manufacturing and increases the efficiency of manufacturing SMEs, opening up new market possibilities for both technological developers and new robotics users”.
A robotic plant requires a high level of safety, which reduces its real productivity when human and machine work in the same workspace. The current regulations only allow direct interaction between man and machine in specific situations and are not extendible to any robotic machine. In situations where there is no interaction option, the usual resource is the installation of cells to physically isolate the robot from the operators, which reduces freedom of movement and possible system performance improvements. The technology developed by Ontech would help ensure operator safety while taking steps to improve productivity in automated manufacturing processes.