Machinery IndustryRobotsInterview with Fraunhofer IPA > Interview with Fraunhofer IPA page 2

Interview with Martin Haegele, Head of Department at Fraunhofer IPA

Current innovations around the use of robots

Martin Haegele comments on a standardized programming language for robots, the connection between the controls of robot and machine, the future significance of open source controls for robots and future innovations regarding the robots' use at machines.

Again and again machine-builders are also requiring a standardized programming language for all robots. How do you see that?

This discussion about a standardized programming language for robots which is similar to that in the CNC world, I’m already familiar with since I started my job in the robotics more than 20 years ago. However, such a standardized programming language did not become generally accepted yet although the robot programming languages were showing a certain relationship.


I suppose such a standardized programming language for robots would be generated very fast, if for example the automobile industry as the largest robot customer group would specify a standardized language. However, this is not the case yet. In fact, the most car manufacturers prefer to specify one or few robot suppliers. That in turn works for them as a standardized programming language.

The robot should be integrated as simply as possibly into the machine control or both control of machine and robot should be integrated. What do you think of that?

Robot manufacturers have integrated, for instance PLCs for machines or systems into the robotic control, either as soft-PLC or as separate PLC hardware.


Conversely established control suppliers offer extensions for robots. Either the motion control of the robot is taken over by the machine control, very common with gantry robots, or the robotic control is interfaced with the machine control via suitable bus systems.


Furthermore there are some robot suppliers that integrate a CNC core into the robotic control. This is favorable where robots are used for processing functions, e.g. for milling wood, synthetic, aluminum etc. or for rapid prototyping.


This allows the robot motions to be coded in standardized NC code or typical CAM packages can be used that generate tool paths and thus robot programs in NC code derived from workpiece models.

What do you think of the future significance of open source control systems?

Generally open source stands for openness, costs saving in software engineering and for flexibility. That could also become interesting for robotic controls in the future.


However, the success of well-known open source initiatives like e.g. Linux, Java, Mozilla, MySQL etc. is only conditionally portable to the industrial control technology as users of high-specialized automation solutions expect highest reliability, continuous enhancements and global support.


Nevertheless we currently face interest in open source control systems for robots, in particular for service robots.


Good prospects are offered for the suppliers of service robots to easily draw on proven functions for e.g. mobile navigation, image processing or system visualization.


Even first manufacturers of industrial robots, in particular start-ups, are using the results of open source initiatives like industrial ROS in order to efficiently develop systems bringing them rapidly on the market. We at Fraunhofer IPA watch this trend and we also plan to take part e.g. in the industrial ROS initiative.


For the topic open source in robotics we offer a workshop at the IPA for the first time on 17 October. We are very curious about the feedback.

Which substantial innovations do you see in the next years regarding the use of robots at the machines?

I would like to pick up only a few trends out of the large number of the current developments:


Integrating robots into the process for loading and unloading of machines. In such a way robots at machine tools provide for additional automated shifts. The robot is linked with the machine, often even integrated into. Interesting concepts assume that also the robot is displaceable and carries out handling functions at different machines as required.


Human-robot cooperation. When it comes to combining flexibility and productivity, cooperating robot systems can be an interesting alternative. The robot provides for handling of workpieces and quality with repetitive processes while the worker is responsible for those production steps which require skills, experience and judgment. This division of work requires special safety precautions because the robot operates without fence. Safe control systems as one of the main requirement for cooperation between human and robot are offered by the most robot manufacturers today.


Mobile robots. Innovative solutions of automated material flow involve ever more automated guided vehicles (AGV). Reasons are cost effectiveness, continuity and reliability. In addition, innovative AGV have become able to navigate freely since, i.e. they are independent from labeling the work environment in form of marks, lines etc. So there are maximal flexible routes possible.

Fraunhofer IPA shows high precision performances with the "bin-picking".
Fraunhofer IPA shows high precision performances with the "bin-picking".

The industrial robot becomes more intelligent. While sensor systems have been the exception with robot applications by now, they are becoming the standard ever more frequently. Sensors help to determine uncertainties regarding workpieces’ tolerance and position as well as process parameter. The robot can immediately react to this data input.


Furthermore robots are to be programmed and operated more intuitively and faster - owing to the use of new operator interfaces. The combination of graphic, tactile guiding and even language to program the robot will become generally accepted and reasonably completes the off-line programming.


Our vision is to use the robot once so intuitively and effectively like a cordless screwdriver today.

Mr Haegele, thank you for the interview.


Martin Haegele was interviewed by Thomas Quest.

To page 1 of the interview with the topics:

  • To the technological prospects of the robots
  • To the easy and grafical programming of the robot
Zum Seitenanfang
Bookmark and Share



Page 1 of the interview

  • Technolocal prospects of robots
  • Graphical programming of the robot


Page 2  of the interview