Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing Using Advanced Robotics

Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) has awarded $1.4 million in project funding to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as part of its first round of funding to strengthen U.S. manufacturing. ARM selected projects that will generate timely impact on the national manufacturing landscape and serve as examples of ARM’s mission.

The project focuses on advanced robotics manufacturing and will develop an operator-guided, semi-automatic assembly process using industrial robots integrated with multiple sensors. The goal of the project is to improve manufacturing productivity by enhancing the operator’s capabilities through advanced robotics, and appropriately applying the technologies that capitalize on the strengths of the robotics (e.g., precise manipulation) and the operator (e.g., decision-making).

The Rensselaer project aims to develop a fixture-less robotic assembly system that will decrease the process cycle time, decrease process setup cost, improve alignment precision, and simplify the process design by incorporating vision and force feedback. The project will not only impact composites manufacturing, but also be applicable to the aerospace, automotive, heavy, and textile industries, which could involve manipulation of large, heavy, and flexible component parts.

The principal investigator for the grant is John Wen, professor and head of industrial and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Co-principal investigators are Glenn Saunders, senior research engineer in the Rensselaer Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS); Richard Radke, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering; Jeff Trinkle, professor of computer science; and Dan Walczyk, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the CATS. Other team members include GE Global Research, Wason Technology, Southwest Research Institute, IEEE GlobalSpec, Vistex, Fuzehub, Society for Manufacturing Engineers, and Army Benet Laboratory.

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