German Aerospace Centre shows off AI and robotics for Industry 4.0
Among the showier turns at Hannover Messe in Germany last week, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) lifted the hood on its innovations, providing a glimpse of the application of Industry 4.0 artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
Germany spent almost €89 billion on research and development across both the public and private sectors in 2015; more than two thirds came from the private sector, and almost a fifth went on higher education. DLR’s Innovation2gether initiative also contributed to Germany’s Industry 4.0 innovation drive, and has encouraged collaboration between academic institutions and private enterprises, and strengthened its competencies in aerospace, energy, transport and security research.
DLR is ploughing €40 million into mobility, robotics, and data science. Amid its Hannover showcase, it demonstrated a multi-sensor Integrated Positioning System (IPS) for 3D mapping and positioning in “unknown environments”. The IPS module simulates human orientation with a stereo camera and rotation-rate and acceleration sensors, and allows positioning without the need for an external reference system such as GPS or Wi-Fi.
The technology has been developed over the course of a decade, and is being commercialised by industrial services company Deutsche Montan Technologies (DMT), working with robotics company Gestalt Robotics to bring the technology to space exploration.
The DLR is also working with SensTek, a DLR spin-off company, on the commercial development of optomechanical inertial sensors (OMIS), which can perform continuous broadband measurements and exhibit extremely high micro-g bias stabilities over long timescales, without interference from electromagnetic fields.
OMIS technologies will be applicable in autonomous driving, road safety and navigation and positioning control, said DLR. “These products open up new possibilities for both terrestrial and satellite-based navigation, with applications in automotive and transport technology sectors, as well as the renewable energy sector, aviation, shipping, space travel and defence industries,” it said.
Meanwhile, the DLR showcased a humanoid robot, called David, at Hannover Messe, created to “get robots closer to human capabilities” in terms of their dynamics, dexterity and robustness. The David robot is comparable to humans in terms of its size and range of movement; all its finger joints can be controlled individually, and it has 41 “degrees of freedom”. David has been designed to assist human workers in factory set-ups with maintenance tasks, and provide support in dangerous situations.
The DLR is also working with German robotics company Kinfinity on a high-tech suit and gloves set, which records and transmits human movement data. The ability to programme robots with precise human-like movements opens up the possibility of training and repairs in virtual and augmented reality in the context of Industry 4.0.
“The Kinfinity technology provides a highly accurate position of fingers, arms, and legs in real time,” said the DLR. “Depending on the user’s needs, it provides the possibility of switching seamlessly between wireless and wired solutions. The user-friendly interface and smart calibration tool mean the system is ready to be used within minutes.”
Separately, DLR showed its work with COPRO Technology, another spin-off company, which specialises in roll-forming technology for composite preforms. COPRO Technology offers affordable design and manufacturing of small functional industrial components, made to order.
The likes of Airbus and BMW use its service. The company reckons it can save manufacturing businesses up to 35 per cent on production of bespoke parts.