Monday, July 03, 2006

Europe's Robot Jobs Program

Why don’t small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) have more robots working in their factories? Robots don’t have the skills? Robots are too expensive?Robots can’t pass the drug test?
Maybe all of these reasons are true but robots offer many advantages to a small business too.They work hard – even in August – they can do all kinds of jobs without complaints and they don’t riot in the streets.
This sounds like a group of workers ready for exploitation.
And that is exactly what EU’s SMErobot project plans to accomplish…

This initiative is intended to exploit the potentials of industrial robots, because they constitute the most flexible existing automation technology.

The project brings together researchers and engineers from industry, universities and government to solve the problem of robot employment in SME’s.It is being coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart

Their plan is to design a family of robots that meet three conditions. First, it must be easy to communicate with the robot. They should understand spoken or simple command languages. Secondly, the robot must be safe enough to work with people. No one wants a dangerous worker disrupting their factory. They need to be able to share the workspace with others. Third, the robot has to be able to be set up and working in three days.(Just like a human worker? 3 days?)
The project not only includes the hardware and software design of the robots but also how to organize your business - both factory and finances – to accommodate robot employees.
From the SMErobot website:
“A new paradigm of affordable and flexible robot automation technology, which meets the requirements of SMEs, is called for.”

The project was launched in 2005 and is planned for four years. However, the new 'paradigm' will create permanent changes in the workplace for both humans and robots.


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