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Partner profile: IK4-TEKNIKER

In this series, members of the PICK-PLACE consortium are portrayed. After TOFAŞULMA Handling Systems and Mondragon Assembly, it’s the turn of technical coordinator IK4-TEKNIKER. Loreto Susperregi, Robotics Research coordinator, answers the interview.

What is IK4-TEKNIKER?

IK4-TEKNIKER is a technological center legally constituted as a private not-for-profit Foundation that aims at the development and transfer of technology to improve the competitiveness of industry.

IK4-TEKNIKER was founded in 1981 and currently has more than 270 researchers and an anual turnover of over 29 M€. Automotive, machine tools, mechanical capital goods, aerospace, industrial and consumer electronics are the most relevant sectors served by IK4-TEKNIKER.

Our center has been participating in both national and European projects in the field of Advanced Industrial and Service Robotics. IK4-TEKNIKER acts as the technical coordinator of PICK-PLACE, and has extensive experience as coordinator in many other European projects.

In line with its missions and origins, IK4-TEKNIKER not only provides companies with technological support, but is also involved in generating new business initiatives, which are usually technological and, often, “spin offs” of the centre itself.

IK4-TEKNIKER edit 1IK4-TEKNIKER’s facilities in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Spain.

As technical coordinator of the PICK-PLACE project, what are its main technological goals and why did you find them so interesting?

The research at PICK-PLACE is focused on developing intelligent picking applications for logistics, able to interpret the environment through multimodal sensors, implementing strategies for manipulation and handling that adapt to changing conditions/products and allow safe interaction with people.

The technologies to be developed in PICK-PLACE have been identified as drivers in competitiveness either in the industrial sector offering new solutions to the logistic market as well as in others, such as agriculture and health among others.

In the case of IK4-TEKNIKER, what’s your main contribution to PICK-PLACE? How do you expect to benefit from the project?

IK4-TEKNIKER aims at acquiring and developing technologies in the field of complex product manipulation and handling. The aim is to make advancements in strategies to solve the PICK-PLACE challenges, characterized to manage complex products with short production cycles, which require advanced vision, flexibility in manipulation, accuracy and reliability in operation beyond the capabilities of workers.

In addition, it is of interest to transfer to the industry the abovementioned technologies by creating advanced automation solutions for unitary order picking or machine tending, among others.

Robotics laboratory at IK4-TEKNIKER’s headquarters.

In what ways can PICK-PLACE achieve progress beyond the state of the art? Could you give real, detailed examples?

PICK-PLACE aims at developing technologies that will build the basis for the next automation and robotics generation in manipulation operations in logistics.

Technologically, one of the main aims is to provide flexible functionalities and programming tools for pick and place operations including:

  • The advance of complex object identification algorithms.
  • The development of advanced multifunctional grippers.
  • The implementation of systems for the integration of sensory information in the robots planning and control (e.g. guiding robot’s movements using 3D vision).
  • The operation of Pilots.

From an industrial point of view, the objective is on the one hand to make technically and economically feasible the use of robots in the field of small-series production in logistics. And, on the other hand, to improve the working conditions of operators.

Could you mention some other projects we should pay attention to, that also related to picking / pick and place / pick and package?

Some interesting EU projects are:

IK4-TEKNIKER edit 3A researcher from IK4-TEKNIKER interacting with a collaborative robot.
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