At this year’s automatica, COMAU presented three major industrial innovations, some the result of new partnerships. From new AI and a multi-material 3D printer, to AI-programed robots and a new exoskeleton, Maurizio Cremonini, head of Marketing at COMAU, tells us all about this year’s innovations with the code name HUMANUfacturing.
1) A Clever 3D Printing Manufacturing Solution
This project is the result of a partnership with 3D printing company Autodesk and a multi-materials extruder proposed by Continuous Composites. Maurizio Cremonini, head of Marketing at COMAU, explains the concept:
For the first time, we are able to create a part that is 3D printed with multi-materials. It starts with a sensorized “mother” material that can be copper, glass fiber or carbon fibers. For example, if we have a combination of glass fiber, we will molecularly reoriente it by laser scan. In this mother material, you can then embed other materials, for example a copper wire or a carbon fibre layer or optical fibres.
The company is already able to 3D print multiple cables together for the automotive sector.
According to Cremonini, the aerospace sector could also be interested in such multi-materials for maintenance purposes. COMAU states that the printing process takes a 40 hours.
Let’s say you have a combination of carbon fibers and optical fibers, you can have a sensorized surface that’s good for producing wings. Therefore, instead of checking the reliability of the whole airplane during the maintenance process, you can just check the optical fiber embedded in the carbon fiber.
The construction sector also holds huge potential for the company, for example for making panels for facades.
But the most advanced innovation of this 3D printing solution is related to artificial intelligence, at the instigation of Autodesk.
Imagine that you want to 3D print a chair but you don’t have a model in mind. You give the KPIs, the requirements (the height of the chair, how many legs, the colors, the materials etc.) to the AI software. Then the AI starts designing thousands of potential chairs with thousands of possible designs. Once you find the one you like, you select it, you ask the software to translate the design in number of thousands of instructions for the robot controller and then the 3D printer starts printing.
The printer will be available between the first and second quarter of 2019.
2) Programming Robots with AI
The 3D printer is not the only solution involving AI that COMAU is working on. The company is also partnering with another company (that wishes to remain unknown for the moment) to program robot trajectories. Cremonini explains:
The use of AI is very useful when you have to program 18 robots working together in a station at the same time. These robots have to be programed to work together and this is a long-lasting process because you have to calculate how to avoid collisions etc. So, the AI can to create the potential trajectories and end up with the best available multi trajectories program.
3) The Exoskeleton
Automatica also saw the unveiling of a brand-new development area for the company. COMAU is working on exoskeletons and presented its first prototype, designed to reduce fatigue for workers in the manufacturing area.
It is something that any worker can easily wear and use for lifting things, moving things. It does not constrain any kind of movements. It is here to help the workers and to support the muscular part of the shoulder and of the arm.
Automotive, textile and construction industries are some of the sectors that could benefit from this technology. For Cremonini, the market will explode in the coming years.