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SMErobot™ Project Overview

SMErobot™ was an Integrated Project within the 6th Framework Programme of the EC to create a new family of SME-suitable robots and to exploit its potentials for competitive SME manufacturing (March 2005 - May 2009).
The need More than 228 000 manufacturing SMEs in the EU are a crucial factor in Europe‘s competitiveness, wealth creation, quality of life and employment. To enable the EU to become the most competitive region in the world, the Commission has emphasized research efforts aimed at strengthening knowledge-based manufacturing in SMEs as agreed at the Lisbon Summit and as pointed out at MANUFUTURE-2003. However, existing automation technologies have been developed for capital-intensive large-volume manufacturing, resulting in costly and complex systems, which typically cannot be used in an SME context. Therefore, manufacturing SMEs are today caught in an ‘automation trap’: they must either opt for current and inappropriate automation solutions or compete on the basis of lowest wages. A new paradigm of affordable and flexible robot automation technology, which meets the requirements of SMEs, is called for.
Breakthrough This initiative is intended to exploit the potentials of industrial robots, because they constitute the most flexible existing automation technology. The consortium is set to create a radically new type of robot system - a whole family of SME-suitable robots.
Objectives The SMErobot™ initiative offers an escape out of the automation trap through:
  • Technology development of SME robot systems adaptable to varying degrees of automation, at a third of today‘s automation life-cycle costs;
  • New business models creating options for financing and operating robot automation given uncertainties in product volumes and life-times and to varying workforce qualification.
  • Empowering the supply chain of robot automation by focusing on the needs and culture of SME manufacturing with regard to planning, operation and maintenance.
Innovations Research and development in SMErobot™ is geared towards creating the following technical innovations:
  1. Robot capable of understanding human-like instructions (by voice, gesture, graphics)
  2. Safe and productive human-aware space-sharing robot (cooperative, no fences)
  3. Three-day-deployable integrated robot system (modular plug-and-produce components)
Partners Five major European robot manufacturers have joined forces in SMErobot™, in close cooperation with key component manufacturers, five leading research institutes and universities, and consultants for multidisciplinary RTD, dissemination and training efforts.
Implementation Demonstrations of fully functional prototypes will be set up in different SME manufacturing branches (plastics & rubber, small-batch foundry, metal parts fabrication, etc.), together with SME end users and SME system integrators, partly from the new Member States. Training and education will be conducted at all levels from researcher to end-users.
Integration SMEs and society benefit from the combined integration of knowledge along the supply chain of robotic automation, from component manufacturers to end users, from multidisciplinary activities to business/financing models, and from fundamental technical research when confronted with SME scenarios. Management includes dedicated support for SME integration.
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