Enabling Robots to Get Out of the Way

Nov. 8, 2019
New technology enables robots to dynamically assess and select motion plans.

Safety is always a primary consideration as manufacturers implement robots or begin testing the boundaries by placing robots in new less guarded applications.

It is a viable concern. These are heavy pieces of equipment moving with significant force and determination to complete the programmed task. If the robot fails to see a human or even another object temporarily placed in its calculated path, the results can be disastrous

Alternative routes

Realtime Robotics is determined to change robotic interactions with its new offering. The firm's technology consists of a next-generation specialized computer processor coupled with state-of-the-art software algorithms that empower robots to evaluate millions of alternative motion plans to avoid collisions and choose the optimal path all within milliseconds. The processor can check up to 800,000 motions at 30 frames/second.

Ultimately, the motion planning technology allows a robot to see moving obstacles in its environment and immediately update the trajectory to avoid the obstacle, while still achieving its goal. The technology essentially opens the eyes of robots – facilitating the ability of more robots to operate as cobots – while increasing the pace of operation, removing the risk of collision and reducing the programming needed to set up a robotic operating system.

“Manufacturers need a robotic solution that enables them to be more efficient and adaptable to change,” Peter Howard, CEO Realtime Robotics tells IndustryWeek. “Rapid motion planning is the catalyst that will expand the potential of automation finally freeing robots from cages and enabling them to work both safely and productively with other machines and humans.”

Realtime’s technology adds value to two common automation environments: multi-robot and collaborative applications. With multi-robot work cells, the technology vastly reduces the time and cost of programming. The collaborative solution harnesses the full power and capability of industrial robots working safely and at full-speed with humans in the work cell. 

Realtime Robotics has invented a new way to streamline multiple aspects of the programming process using a single visualization toolkit known as RapidPlan. RapidPlan has the ability to interface with an existing PLC, custom task planner as well as single or multiple robot controllers. RapidPlan automates many of the time-consuming core processes, enabling manufacturers to avoid the conventional motion planning approaches that typically require weeks or even months to complete all aspects of programming, simulation, testing and evaluation

Potential applications

Realtime’s solutions allow people and multiple robots to work collaboratively and cooperatively within the same work cell, without the need for expensive safety systems or time-consuming programming effort. Some ideal applications include spot welding, pick and place, bin picking and inspection. Realtime is also currently working with a global automotive OEM focused on automating the assembly of car underbody.

Still early in the game, many of the manufacturers Realtime is working with, including Mitsubishi Electric, are undertaking proof of concept projects. Company executives anticipate rollout from R&D to production environments within the next six months.

The company recently closed a series A funding round, and the technology is already being rolled out with a selection of manufacturers who are undertaking proof of concept projects, including working with automotive companies who are considering technology as a collision avoidance component in autonomous vehicles.

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Technology Editor

As a highly experienced journalist, Peter Fretty regularly covers advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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