On 14.02.2019, the official starting signal was given for the joint project ProBot, the aim of which is to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in tapping the potential of innovative collaborating robots (so-called CoBots). CoBots are robots that can work directly with a human “in a team” without a safety fence in order to optimally support this person in the workflow. While previous industrial robots specialised in individual, pre-defined activities, CoBots can be adapted to new tasks with little effort and without special programming knowledge. These characteristics make them particularly interesting for medium-sized companies.

So far, however, SMEs have made little use of this potential, as they often lack the organizational and personnel capacities as well as process-accompanying planning and decision-making aids to identify, evaluate and implement deployment scenarios for CoBots.

This is where the research project ProBot comes in and develops a virtual diagnostic case in the sense of “helping people to help themselves”, which supports SMEs in the targeted evaluation and development of individual CoBot solutions consistently and systematically. The diagnostic case will contain detailed, easy-to-use and company-specific planning and decision aids, which will enable an exact analysis of the initial conditions and a well-founded assessment of the CoBot application variants.

The development of the diagnostic kit is carried out in close cooperation with SMEs from the manufacturing industry. The joint project ProBot is coordinated by the Institute of Ergonomics and Business Organization (ifab) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The Institute for Learning and Innovation in Networks (ILIN) and the Institute for Robogistics are involved on the part of the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences – Technology and Economy. Technologically, the project is supported by the companies ArtiMinds Robotics GmbH and robodev GmbH. The following companies are involved as producing user SMEs: Leutron GmbH, Maus GmbH Modell- und Formenbau, RAUCH Landmaschinenfabrik GmbH, Schnorr GmbH. The transfer partners Institut für angewandte Arbeitswissenschaft e. V. contribute to the dissemination of the results. (ifaa) and Landesnetzwerk Mechatronik BW GmbH (LMBW).

The ProBot research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the “Future of Work” programme and is supported by the Karlsruhe Project Management Organisation (PTKA). The author is responsible for the content of this publication.

Further information on the project and the tasks of the ILIN can be found here: Project page ProBot