TeamBots - a tool-based methodology for develolping software for dynamic robot teams

Start date: 01.07.2018
End date: 30.06.2021
Duration: 3 Jahre
Funded by: DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)
Local project leader: Dr. Alwin Hoffmann
Local scientists: Ludwig Nägele
Dr. Andreas Schierl
Dr. Alwin Hoffmann
External scientists / cooperations: DLR
Publications: Publication list


Industrial robots are an important building block for efficient automation nowadays. They combine high flexibility, velocity and precision in a unique way, which makes them stand out compared to other automation techniques. In most cases, however, industrial robots are used for mass production with limited variability of tasks, like e.g. in the automotive industry. Considering initiatives like Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, robots will play an even larger role in intelligent factories, producing highly customized products with high variability and in small lot sizes. Single robots working in an isolated manner will not be sufficient to address the aforementioned requirements. Instead, the ability to form flexible teams of robots is required. By using different, interchangeable toolings, multi-functional robot cells are created that offer a drastic increase in flexibility, performance and robustness. On the other hand, planning and programming reaches a new level of complexity.

The proposal TeamBotS addresses this complexity. The goal is to create a tool-supported methodology for the development of control software of dynamically forming multi-functional robot teams. To achieve this, an approach for modelling skills of robot teams including different toolings is developed. This allows for flexible planning, scheduling and execution of process tasks with robot teams. Furthermore, techniques are developed for automatically deriving process steps from the products' construction plans, finding allocations of those steps to possible robot teams with compatible skills and calculating collision-free execution schedules with a high degree of parallelization to improve cycle times. The robot team skill model helps to better control planning complexity. Finally, the skill model enables easier programming of robot team actions as well as execution of those actions. To achieve this in practice, new concepts for synchronized hard real-time execution of actions on distributed robot controllers are developed.

The proposed approach integrates experts from process as well as automation domains on all levels. The developed theoretical results are incorporated in a prototypical tool that makes the results usable for the domain experts. On this basis, the approach is applied to and evaluated against two case studies - production of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic components and assembly of pieces of furniture.