Can Advanced Robotics Save US Manufacturing?

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute receives $1.4 million in project funding from ARM.

(Image courtesy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)

(Image courtesy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)

Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) recently awarded $1.4 million USD 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, applying technologies that capitalize on the strengths of robotics (e.g., precise manipulation) and operators (e.g., decision-making).

The project has also received significant matching funds from the Empire State Development Division on Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR).

The principal investigator for the grant is John Wen, professor and head of industrial and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. According to Wen, “This ARM project allows us to bring a large team together to advance robotics technology and workforce training in manufacturing and industrial automation. Our students are gaining valuable experience from working with industrial professionals and the exposure to real-world needs and requirements. We look forward to the continuing partnership with ARM and NYSTAR to help companies adopt advanced robotics technologies.”

The Rensselaer project aims to develop a fixtureless robotic assembly system that will decrease cycle times and setup costs, improve alignment precision and simplify process design by incorporating vision and force feedback. The project is relevant to composites manufacturing, as well as the aerospace, automotive and industries, as well as any process which could involve the manipulation of large, heavy and flexible component parts.

In 2017, Rensselaer was named as a founding member of the 14th Manufacturing USA institute -Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM). ARM is the eighth DoD-led manufacturing institute, and is part of the Manufacturing USA network that is working collectively to help revitalize American manufacturing and incentivize companies to invest in new technology development in the U.S.

For more robotics news, check out our interview with Universal Robots CTO Esben Ostergaard on the Future of Collaborative Robots.