Today was the day I had been waiting all trip for: the company visit to KUKA! KUKA is an automation solutions company that manufactures industrial robots. I had seen several KUKA robots while on tours of other companies in Germany and was excited to final learn about how they are made. I was a part of a competitive robotics team while in high school and have taken several robotics classes, so I am fairly familiar with robots.
I was thrilled when I learned that I had been assigned to research KUKA. I remember back during my interview when Dr. Feick and Arielle were talking about the different types of companies we would visit in Germany, I was the most excited for the robotics company. First, we went to the University of Augsburg for a presentation about German politics and lunch at the Mensa. I tried to get less food than last time, but still managed to fill my tray. We were able to take a tram to KUKA since it was in Augsburg.
We each were given a visitor pass and lead to the Brand Experience room. Upon entering, it was dark which I found odd since it was a large room filled with cool robots. Our tour guide started talking to us about the history of KUKA, which I was familiar with from my group’s initial research about the company. Then, we watched a video that showed a KUKA robot playing ping pong with a professional- this was the exact same video that my group was going to show as the intro for our final presentation! (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIIJME8-au8) We watched 2 robots interact with 3D Tetris blocks to show us the range of motion and various other cool aspects. We were able to get a big group picture with a robot, but the tour guide moved on before we were able to get a presentation group picture.
Next, we saw the new iiwa robot in action. This robot is special because it is the first robot to have 7 axes of rotation, the same number as in the human arm. Also, iiwa promotes human-robot collaboration as no safety fences are necessary and workers can use it as a third arm. Luckily, my group was able to get a picture with the robot at the end, but, as we were finishing up, the iiwa robot made a noise and the tour guide exclaimed “who touched my robot?” I thought it was funny that she knew exactly what happened which means that similar situations must happen frequently.
Next, we toured the factory where the robots were manufactured. The first thing I saw was an animation about the certain type of wheel that KUKA uses on the bases of the mobile robots. From the first glance, I recognized the wheels as the Mecanum wheels, based on their distinctive addition of rollers instead of treads. I remembered back to one of my robotics seasons when my team discussed the benefits and drawbacks of using Mecanum wheels on our robot for that year’s competition. We then were able to watch an autonomous forklift transport a finished robot to the testing room, allowing us to watch the omnidirectional Mecanum wheels in action. The beginning of the factory tour was my favorite, and, from there, the tour was generic and not as exciting as the beginning. After the tour, several employees presented about robots and innovation at KUKA. I found the presentation to be interesting, as the presenters discussed various engineering topics about the robots, including the benefits of the 7th axis of rotation on iiwa over the 6 axes on other models. During the presentation, I thought about how difficult it must be to program each robot, as a singular model can be used for many applications. After the presentation, my group got the opportunity ask questions during the longest Q&A session of the trip. My group had prepared many questions to ask about the company for our final presentation, so I didn’t ask any technical questions as I figured no one else was curious about how KUKA designs attachments at the “hand” of the robotic arm for different applications or how they create code for each robot.
We took the tram back to hotel and were dismissed for the rest of the night. A large portion of our group decided to go to a döner restaurant for dinner. This was a disaster. To start, the workers at this restaurant only spoke German. The first mishap happened when Liam went to sit in his chair. The chair collapsed underneath him, to which he responded, “I didn’t think I gained THAT much weight!” A few moments later we hear a noise and Liam asks what it is. We all make jokes about how it was probably the oven and how he must have hit his head. However, it was not the oven. It was Arman- he had mistakenly pulled the help cord while looking for the light switch in the handicapped bathroom. Eventually, we all got our food and returned back to the hotel. None of us will likely return to that restaurant again.
Dog Counter: I saw 7 dogs today!
Low of the Day:
This morning, we had a talk about politics in Germany. I thought the presenter did a good job making the concepts easy to understand. He would often make connections between politics in Germany and America. However, I did not enjoy this presentation as much as I should have because I was distracted by my excitement to see cool robots at KUKA.
High of the Day:
We had some free time after the politics talk in the morning, so I worked on my blogs. This was especially helpful as the WIFI at the hotel was awful.