KUKA Robots Are Becoming Mobile

Augsburg-based KUKA Roboter has taken another important step towards service robotics. By taking over the "omniMove" business unit in Gersthofen, near Augsburg, from Salzgitter-based IC Industrial Consulting GmbH, KUKA has extended the area of applications of its robots to include mobile platforms. omniMove precision mobile platforms open up a wide range of applications for mobile tools - and now also for robots. omniMove products are already well established, particularly in the aerospace industry. Customers such as Airbus, Eurocopter and Lufthansa rely on these mobile platforms, which will now enable KUKA Roboter GmbH to bolster its commitment in this sector with its vast future potential.

In General Industry, i.e. business in the non-automotive sector, the primary objective of KUKA’s development work is to tap into new markets, particularly in the fields of logistics, plastics, medicine and the aerospace industry. New function packages enable KUKA robot technology to penetrate into additional fields of application. For robots can be used in practically any application: handling, stacking, inspecting, polishing or grinding. In combination with new gripper and sensor technologies, previously unimaginable robotic applications become possible.

For example, KUKA robots have been used by renowned companies in the aerospace industry for years. High-precision robots “made in Augsburg” grind, polish and sew components inside and outside aircraft fuselages. The omniMove platforms will now enable innovative further developments and scaling of mobile industrial robots – for a wide range of applications going beyond the aerospace industry One example is the prototype that has already been developed for a special mini-platform (“Robomove”). Existing products, such as the Triple-Lift 8000 (used by Airbus, for example), the autoclave loading system (Eurocopter) and the positioner system, are already well established in the aerospace industry.

The existing list of customers and references offers KUKA Roboter excellent business and technical development potential in the future-oriented markets of the aerospace sector.

Eight non-driven rollers ensure optimal motion

The omniMove system is based on the omniMove® wheel. This consists of eight specially shaped, non-driven rollers, which are mounted between two identical stable rims. Platforms fitted with omniMove® wheels can be moved in any direction from a standing start. The wheels do not have a steering mechanism, as changes in direction are determined by the direction of rotation of the wheels relative to one another. The resulting maneuverability is comparable to the omnidirectional freedom of motion of a hovercraft. Vehicles can be maneuvered with millimeter precision. The omniMove® wheel is based on a 25-yearold proven technology. Due to the on-going conceptual and design development of this technology, the omniMove® wheel has the following advantages over other wheels:

  • Production of the omniMove® wheel is cost-effective.
  • The externally installed stable rims protect against damage.
  • Maintenance and repair are considerably easier.

Precise maneuverability, very safe operation and increased productivity were the deciding factors for Austrian Airlines when opting for the omniMove system. The time taken to replace engines on an Airbus, for example, has been cut from sixteen hours to just five hours. Even more important for the airline, however, was the significantly reduced risk of injuries to personnel and damage to aircraft and equipment.

Service robotics - the market of the future

The omniMove platforms (both hydraulic and electric motor-driven) are set to open up new areas of application for KUKA robots in future development of mobile robots. These options are of interest not only for the aerospace industry, but also, in the future, in the field of service robotics – the central focus for the future of robotics.

This year, KUKA, one of the world’s leading suppliers of industrial robots, unveiled the lightweight robot. What is remarkable about this system is not only its light weight, but also its sensitive sensors. These make it possible for the KUKA lightweight robot to “learn” by being touched and guided by a person. And with its seven degrees of freedom, it is almost as agile as a human. This robot concept is an important milestone on the road to service robotics and medical technology.