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Human beings and robots will soon be working together without safety barriers. But first precise risk analyses are needed.

"Robotics is evolving away from traditional industrial robots toward advanced assistive robots," says Dr. Norbert Elkmann, Senior Vice President of Robot Systems at Fraunhof Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF. "We will soon be seeing robots many in places that actively assist us in our tasks and no longer operate separated from us by protective barriers," according to the researcher. While robots are still mostly industrial installations that weight tons and are designed to rapidly process repetitive tasks, the new "steel co-workers" are making their way into smaller factories where they are considerably more versatile.

As keynote speaker, Norbert Elkmann opened the fourth ROBOTICS CONGRESS in Hannover on December 9, 2014. His presentation is entitled Safe Human-Machine Collaboration – Current Developments and Projects. When does it make sense to deploy robotics in small and medium-sized enterprises? Does the future belong to mixed doubles made up of workers and robots? What role will mobile robots play in the future? Representatives from industrial manufacturers and associations will be discussing such questions at the convention center.

Robots that are easy to operate and integrate enable many new applications. However, in order for people and robots to work together closely, "it is imperative that a comprehensive risk assessment be carried out – which not only looks at robots but at the entire cell," says Elkmann. "We are developing technologies that allow robots, on the one hand, to move among us freely and allow humans, on the other hand, to cooperate quite intuitively without risk of injury." Currently the Fraunhofer IFF is developing tactile and capacitance sensor systems and safe kinematics, carrying out collision tests and developing systems for sensory workspace surveillance.

An example of modern robotics applications was demonstrated at the Congress by the winner of the 2014 ROBOTICS AWARD : With "KeTop T10 directMove", KEBA AG demonstrated a new breed of handheld robot controllers to guide robots. FANUC presented a bin-picking cell to load parts into machine tools which fuses robotics and industrial image processing. In addition, Robert Bosch GmbH received an award for its automatic production assistant APAS, along with Continental Reifen Deutschland and preccon Robotics with their joint project "Robot-assisted tire prototype production system from slick tires".

On April 14, 2015, HANNOVER MESSE will present the 5th ROBOTICS AWARD. It honors products, projects and technological solutions that make an innovative contribution to robotics-based solutions in the areas of industrial automation, mobile robots and/or autonomous systems. The award ceremony will be held at the Industrial Automation Forum in Hall 14 under the patronage of Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony's Minister for Economics, Labor and Transportation and is one of the highlights of HANNOVER MESSE 2015. "The leading robot manufacturers will demonstrate that robotics is the key to enhanced competitiveness and flexibility in industrial production," says Marc Siemering, Senior Vice-President of HANNOVER MESSE. Companies like Fanuc, Güdel and Kuka will be presenting the latest generation of robots in Hannover. "They will also highlight the key role played by robotics in the fourth industrial revolution," according to Siemering.

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