The Quest for Robotic Precision
Robot manipulators have been successfully used in industry for more than four decades, but they need to become even more precise in their tasks. There are more than one million industrial robots in use, typically welding or painting car bodies, packaging consumer products and assembling electronic components.
Today’s robots are so precise they can move their tool to the same position, over and over again, within an error equivalent to the thickness of a hair. However, ask them to cut a straight line or move a given distance and they perform worse than a human with a ruler. While good at repeatability, robots are poor in absolute accuracy.
Yet, many advanced applications require absolute accuracy. This is especially true in machining and imagery-guided automated surgery, where robots need to attain thousands of calculated—as opposed to taught—positions.
Dr. Ilian Bonev, Canada Research Chair in Precision Robotics, is developing robot designs and methods for evaluating and increasing their absolute accuracy. His team has built a three-axis precision table for precise robotic positioning in semiconductor applications, a rapid pick-and-place robot and a medical robot for ultrasound imaging. These robots are driven in parallel—a concept at which Bonev excels. An expert in this field, he is the co-author of a textbook on parallel robots and the founder of a website dedicated to them (www.parallemic.org).
Bonev's advanced research particularly addresses needs in the aerospace industry and in the medical sector, where robotic precision is critical.