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Industrial Robotics: a new initiative
The SRC has launched a major new initiative in industrial robotics research to be undertaken in selected universities and polytechnics. Drawing on at least £500,000 a year over the next five years, the programme aims to "leap-frog" the present generation of robotics devices and provide the research needed to ensure that UK industry can take full advantage of the intelligent robot as it emerges in the mid 1980s. The programme will be co-ordinated by a small technical management team led by Mr Peter Davey based at the Rutherford and Appleton Laboratories' Chilton Site.
UK industry has lagged seriously behind its overseas competitors in the take-up of present robotic techniques and existing research activity in the field is sparse. It is proposed that most of the research to be supported by SRC in the new initiative should at first take place in partnerships to be set up between individual university groups and firms using (or manufacturing) robots. The partnership idea will help to ensure that future research is firmly rooted in real problems encountered now when trying to introduce present generation robots into current manufacture.
The experience SRC has already gained in operating the Teaching Company and other co-operative schemes is expected to be particularly valuable in creating such partnerships. The programme will be fully co-ordinated with Department of Industry initiatives in this area. Future industrial robots, particularly for assembly tasks, will need to be much faster, cheaper, more reliable, and more accurate than current models. They must be more tolerant of imperfections in the parts being assembled, and in the way these are presented. To achieve such improvements SRC has identified a number of research topics as central to the programme. These include the development of fast and cheap tactile, visual and aural sensory devices; the development of modular robot construction; research on better, cheaper, lighter linkages and actuators, and the effect of wear on accuracy; the optimisation of robot dynamics; research on supervisory functions such as safety; and the development of standards.
Further details are available from Mr P. G. Davey, Robotics Programme Co-ordinator, RAL (Chilton Site), Telephone: Abingdon(0235)21900.