Industrial Robot Manipulation

When manipulating objects or materials in inaccessible or hazardous environments, it is important for the human operator to fully understand the manipulator’s behavior and surroundings, in order to reduce the risk of accidents and the time required to accomplish the task. Typical telemanipulation systems are often based on video feedback and traditional joysticks to operate the different degrees of freedom of the robot. This approach can be challenging as visual feedback alone may not always be optimal depending on the position and configuration of the robot at a given time, or simply when interacting with very stiff objects as physical deformations under force loads may not even be visible. By using a 3D haptic device to control the robot while feeling the workspace limits of the manipulator and the interaction forces with the environment, the task becomes more instinctive to accomplish for the operator. Furthermore, the increased accuracy in the force domain for which the task can be accomplished also reduces the risk of damage for the robot and objects in the environment.

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Vulcan Engineering VTS™

The VTS™ (Vulcan Tactile System) from Vulcan Engineering is a telemanipulation system composed of an industrial robot and a customized custom omega.3 haptic device. The robot manipulator can incorporate force sensing technology as well as the appropriate end-effector tool for accomplishing the desired task (e.g grinding wheel, gripper, etc...).  

The VTS™ provides 3 modes of operation, namely manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic. The use of tactile force feedback allows the operator to manually control the robot, not just program it. This real-time interactive mode allows the operator to move the robot simultaneously with his movements while feeling the interaction force between the end-effector of the robot and the environment. Virtual fixtures (force constraints) can be used to guide the operation and are part of a library of task primitives which can be activated by the operator.

The following video and images illustrate the VTS™ in operation.

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