One of the most promising areas for applying manipulation research is industrial robotics. In fact, automation of parts supply, product assembly and product inspections processes are considered extremely difficult. The labor-intensive nature of these processes has contributed to the hollowing out of domestic manufacturing industry due to rise of labor costs. In particular, the automation of the parts supply and product assembly requires the full use of manipulation research.
Parts Supply Operation
First, we will focus on the parts supply process. When considering the automation of product assembly, the question is how to automate the supply of parts to the assembly process. Automation becomes especially difficult when the number of parts that make up the product increases. The parts that make up the product may have a variety of shapes and include soft parts such as rubber. These various parts must be accurately recognized by visual sensors and accurately grasped by hand, which is exactly what is required in research on grasping by robot hand.
In addition, e-commerce has been widely used in recent years, and when a product order is received at an e-commerce distribution center, a person searches for the ordered product, picks up the product, packs it in a box and ships it to the consumer. The process of picking up and packing these products by human operators presents almost the same problem as the automation of the parts supply process described above, and this automation is considered a very important issue.
Next, we consider the actual assembly of products by robots. In recent years, in order to meet the consumer's demands, high variety productions has been widely introduces as a form of product manufacturing. Currently, it is no longer sufficient for robots to perform only routine and repetitive tasks as in the past. Specifically, the following problems must be solved: