The Rise of Collaborative Robots in China, How Can Robot Companies Succeed in The Future?

        In recent years, with the rapid replacement of machines in the 3C industry, light industrial robots, especially collaborative robots, have shown a steady growth trend. Driven by market demand, collaborative robot products are also developing rapidly. Around 2014, well-known foreign robot companies have launched their own collaborative robot products. Since 2017, a large number of domestic collaborative robot products have emerged. Established companies and some emerging startups have since formed a strong domestic collaborative robot alliance.

        At CIROS2018 China International Robot Exhibition from July 4 to July 7, most of the robot companies exhibited their own collaborative robots. Among them, ELITE Robot, who obtained a 50 million yuan of A round financing at the beginning of the year mainly for collaborative robots, exhibited its full line of products. This was the first large-scale exhibition that ELITE has participated since the initiation of its Industrial Robotics Department. The editor of China Robot Network interviewed Dr. Sun Kai, the CTO of ELITE to learn about ELITE’s development layout.

The Controller Is the Beginning, But It Does Not End There

         ELITE was established at the end of 2014. In June 2016, it developed its first product, the ERC200 robot controller. As soon as the product aiming to control the system productization was released, it received 15 million pre-A rounds of financing from Langmafeng Venture Capital.

        Just a year after the pre-A round of financing, ELITE has extended the original product series, not only improving the robot controller, but also developing an integrated drive and control unit. Both products have been released online for sale.

        ELITE’s self-developed robot controller and integrated drive and control unit series products possess the integration of technologies including high-performance multi-core ARM processors, hybrid real-time operating systems, advanced trajectory control algorithms, large-capacity FPGAs, high-speed servo buses, new concept teaching, and hybrid sensing. ELITE takes the lead in achieving full autonomy and mass production in China. The products are widely used in high-end industrial applications such as welding, sanding, painting, human-machine intelligent collaboration, as well as Internet of Things for robotics.

        As a pioneer in the field of controller manufacturing, why did ELITE start to develop a complete robot? Regarding this matter, Dr. Sun Kai explained: ELITE’s move to making complete robots is not a surprise, but a solid plan from the very beginning. The controller is one of the core parts of the robot. It is the brain of the robot. From industrial control to the realization of simple actions and processes, to the human-machine interaction of the robot, to the autonomous decision-making of the robot, all are implemented and driven by the controller.

        Along the main line of controllers, ELITE successively extended from the traditional industrial robot motion control to the collaborative robot human-machine integration control, and then went deep into human-machine intelligence to realize the evolution from the cerebellum to the brain. Adhering to this concept, ELITE’s technology puzzle is gradually becoming full and complete: robot hardware, algorithms, operating systems, offline programming, integrated technology, and the layout of the entire product line are all independently developed.

        With a large amount of accumulation and preparation in the early stage, it is only natural to make robots. 

Make Robots More Visible and Smarter

         “Without intelligence, you can’t really reach the stage of true collaboration.” Sun Kai firmly believed in that. In order to achieve the ambitious goal that robots have the same “intelligence” as humans, ELITE’s collaborative robots were designed with the combination of computer vision and AI technology at the very beginning. 

       ELITE has always been promoting the concept of artificial intelligence + collaborative robots. After completing the layout of robot hardware, algorithms, operating systems, offline programming, integrated processes, and full-line products, the research and development focus will be switched to visual systems and AI algorithms. Vision is an important part of ELITE’s future development. It is divided into two directions: industry-oriented, which highlights accuracy and processing speed; service-oriented, which focuses on the classification and recognition of different objects and used in public environments such as shopping malls, supermarkets, libraries, restaurants, etc , as well as parcel identification and sorting in the logistics industry.

        ELITE intelligent vision system adopts advanced image processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. It can satisfy users with a set of customizable visions solutions from plane to 3D and vision to control surface defect detection, single and regular-shaped object grabbing, moving object recognition and grabbing, stacking regular-shaped object and grabbing, random mixed object grabbing, and flexible object grabbing.

        ELITE collaborative robot system——EC66 collaborative robot + EG230 intelligent claw + ELITEVision machine vision together made a good demonstration.

        The ELITE EC66 collaborative robot has a self-weight of 17.5 kg, a load of 6 kg, a working radius of 900 mm, and a maximum speed of 2.8 m / s. Its control algorithm achieves efficiency, energy, safety, compliance, obstacle avoidance and other high-level requirements by formulating a reasonable optimization function / weight function. The ELITE EC66 collaborative robot has a self-weight of 17.5 kg, a load of 6 kg, a working radius of 900 mm, and a maximum speed of 2.8 m / s. Its control algorithm achieves efficiency, energy, safety, compliance, obstacle avoidance and other high-level requirements by formulating a reasonable optimization function / weight function. 

         ELITEVision machine vision is equipped with the latest deep neural network (DNN) technology. Basing on the self-developed object recognition and grasping pose prediction algorithms, the robot is guided to achieve accurate grabbing of random objects.  Through the fusion of 2D and 3D image data, the system reduces the accuracy requirements of the deep vision sensor, improves the success rate of capture, enhances the versatility of the capture system, and supports the capture of mixed objects. The system can be widely used in 3C, logistics, retail, catering, and other industries to provide a solid foundation for grabbing applications for service industry robots and “smart workers” in industrial environment.

Full Line Layout, Step by Step

        As a robot company that integrates product development, production, assembly, testing, sales, customer service, and system integration, ELITE has completed the entire robot product line layout through 4 years of rapid development. Sun Kai summarized ELITE’s current three main technical lines:

        The first main line is “motion control”, including trajectory planning, dynamics, integration of drive and control, seven-axis planning, multi-channel and multi-machine collaboration, AI dynamics, and AI trajectory planning.

        The second main line is “human-machine collaboration”, which includes integrated joints, free drive teaching and collision detection, multi-sensor fusion, autonomous obstacle avoidance, active safety, and human-machine group collaboration.

        The third main line is “artificial intelligence”, including machine vision, deep learning and reinforcement learning, speech semantic learning, and behavioral learning.

Three major products have been extended from these three main technical lines: 

       The first category are the industrial robot control systems, including the robot controller of the entire industrial robot body, as well as the integrated drive and control unit for robots with a load of less than 20 kg that supports welding, palletizing, spraying, and polishing. 

        The second category are the collaborative robots, including 6-axis 6 kg and 7-axis 5 kg collaborative robots for moving and assembly, as well as 3kg and 10kg series of collaborative robot products as well as dual-arm collaborative robots that are launching in the upcoming year. The third type of product is the complete industrial robot, including the four main series of 6-axis, SCARA, welding, palletizing. These 4 series will continue to expand in the future and eventually cover the entire series of industrial robots.

        第三类产品是工业机器人整机。包括通用6轴、SCARA、焊接、码垛4个主要系列,未来这4个系列将不断扩充并最终覆盖全系工业机器人。 

A Promising Future

        ELITE brought a full range of products to the China International Robot Exhibition. Only the seven-axis collaborative robot EC75 was absent due to transportation reasons. Sun Kai introduced that the mobility of the seven-axis robot is closest to the human arm, which could be a development direction with lots of potential in the long run. EC75 uses 7 joint degrees of freedom to control the 6 pose variables at the end, so that it has a unique “zero space”, which can make one end pose correspond to infinitely many sets of solutions in the joint space, which greatly improves the flexibility of the operation. 

        Compared to the traditional 6-degree-of-freedom robot, the new robot can also make full use of its remaining degrees of freedom to avoid space obstacles, singular structures, and joint angular position limits, all while optimizing joint torques and achieving end pose control. 

        According to Sun Kai, due to the fact that a balance point has yet to be reached among cost, manufacturing difficulty, and demand, the current collaborative robots in the market are still mainly six-axis. However, the future of collaborative robots is bound to be the world of seven-axis. EC75 will definitely meet the world at the Industry Fair in September.

        Talking about the future development plan, Sun Kai said, “In the next one or two years, the focus of ELITE’s new product development will be on service robots. Real robots should be able to achieve ‘hand-brain cooperation’ and have both execution and thinking capabilities. With the advancement of AI and related control technologies, the structural design of the robot will also keep up with the times, and the final product form will be a human-like intelligent dual-arm robot. “

(This article is reposted from: China Robot Net):LsdException Locked=”false” Priority=”99″ SemiHidden=”false” Name=”Medium Grid 3 Accent 2″ >

        第三类产品是工业机器人整机。包括通用6轴、SCARA、焊接、码垛4个主要系列,未来这4个系列将不断扩充并最终覆盖全系工业机器人。 

A Promising Future

        ELITE brought a full range of products to the China International Robot Exhibition. Only the seven-axis collaborative robot EC75 was absent due to transportation reasons. Sun Kai introduced that the mobility of the seven-axis robot is closest to the human arm, which could be a development direction with lots of potential in the long run. EC75 uses 7 joint degrees of freedom to control the 6 pose variables at the end, so that it has a unique “zero space”, which can make one end pose correspond to infinitely many sets of solutions in the joint space, which greatly improves the flexibility of the operation. 

        Compared to the traditional 6-degree-of-freedom robot, the new robot can also make full use of its remaining degrees of freedom to avoid space obstacles, singular structures, and joint angular position limits, all while optimizing joint torques and achieving end pose control. 

        According to Sun Kai, due to the fact that a balance point has yet to be reached among cost, manufacturing difficulty, and demand, the current collaborative robots in the market are still mainly six-axis. However, the future of collaborative robots is bound to be the world of seven-axis. EC75 will definitely meet the world at the Industry Fair in September.

        Talking about the future development plan, Sun Kai said, “In the next one or two years, the focus of ELITE’s new product development will be on service robots. Real robots should be able to achieve ‘hand-brain cooperation’ and have both execution and thinking capabilities. With the advancement of AI and related control technologies, the structural design of the robot will also keep up with the times, and the final product form will be a human-like intelligent dual-arm robot. “

(This article is reposted from: China Robot Net)

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