For the past few years now, we’ve been closely following the advances being made to develop robots that can work alongside humans on a production line. From ongoing research at Georgia Tech to the introduction of Rethink Robotics’ humanoid robot known as Baxter, the speed at which robots are moving out of the cages in which they normally operate to work alongside humans has rapidly increased.
The most recent news on this front comes from industrial automation suppler Schneider Electric, which announced that it has added Rethink Robotics’ Baxter to its manufacturing workforce. The robot is being used to test circuit breakers at two workstations in Schneider Electric’s Columbia, Mo., plant. Baxter moves and orients parts from the assembly line into testing cells and triggers the testing process.
Bill Smith, senior manufacturing engineer the Schneider Electric plant, says Baxter is working directly alongside production associates to audit product quality for industrial and OEM applications. “Baxter gives us flexibility with automation that we’ve never had before, and is able to take on new tasks and excel at them,” he says. “Now we’re starting to see our test equipment designers and production associates look at Baxter and say, ‘How can we make this [process] even better?’ by using the robot in exciting new ways.”
Smith added that the 250-person plant has often suffered from downtime when integrating traditional, fixed automation into its production lines. Baxter has reduced this issue through its ability to be deployed in a fraction of the time of many other industrial robotic tools.
Schneider Electric says it is testing Baxter in a series of trial applications in its plant equipment development lab as it looks for new ways to integrate the robot into future operations.
The video below shows Baxter working alongside people in a manufacturing facility.