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Schunk wins Hermes Award at the Hannover Messe

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Schunk wins Hermes Award at the Hannover Messe

Since industrial robots entered factories in the 1980s, it has been possible to automate many tasks that were previously carried out by humans. Wherever car bodies are welded together, there are hardly any workers left today because robots carry out repetitive processes more quickly and with a lower probability of errors. Until recently, however, humans were considered far superior in one discipline: reaching into the box.

Engineers mean that it has so far been difficult for robots to pick up disorganized raw material. So far, it has been common practice to pour packages containing delivered seals or screws onto a conveyor belt and separate them so that the robot can grab well-sorted components that always point in one direction. The awarding of the Hermes Award to the German medium-sized company Schunk now shows that the combination of artificial intelligence and sophisticated mechanics can solve this problem. Kristina Schunk, managing director and granddaughter of the company founder, received the industry prize worth 100,000 euros from Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger at the opening of the Hannover Messe.

Programming was yesterday

The award-winning system, sold under the name “2 D Grasping System”, consists of three basic components: a robust camera, an image recognition system and a flexible gripper. According to Schunk, no specific programming knowledge is required for use. The recognition is trained by the user holding the components under the camera from different perspectives and naming them using an input mask. And the program basically writes itself for the movements that the gripper should carry out when the user guides the gripper with their own hand.

The system is designed in such a way that it fits the robots of different manufacturers, in accordance with the classic business model of the medium-sized company. “They relieve employees of monotonous tasks,” praised Stark-Watzinger during the award ceremony. Schunk himself, on the other hand, speaks primarily of making a contribution to the shortage of skilled workers.

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In addition to the degree of innovation and social benefit, the Hermes Award jury also evaluates the maturity of the technology and its cost-effectiveness. In addition to Schunk, Bosch Rexroth with a system for automatic battery assembly and Siemens with software for calculating the CO2 footprint along the supply chain were nominated this year. The jury, led by Fraunhofer President Holger Hanselka, includes numerous experts from business and science as well as Alexander Armbruster, business editor of the FAZ.

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