A new quick-control system developed by Finnish researchers substantially cuts the programming time for industrial robots.

Announcing the innovation on Monday, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. said that the time required for setting and programming a robot can now be counted in minutes, compared to an hour or more when using traditional programming methods. This enables the use of automation in short production runs of single-item products.

“The new solution significantly enhances the efficiency of productive operations and opens up new opportunities for utilizing robots,” said Tapio Heikkilä, principal scientist at VTT.

The VTT control system uses two force/torque sensors, which recognize the pressure on the tool. One sensor is attached to a wireless control stick by which the robot can be steered through the operation step by step.

The control stick and the control system operating in real time make it possible for a human controller to work in the same working space with the robot and control the robot’s movements directly using a control stick attached to the robot or the load, VTT explained.

According to the research and technology company, quick programming of robots and human-robot interaction will become even more important features in the industrial internet era, when flexible production and short runs are essential competitive assets.

“When the customer has a versatile range of single-item products to process, efficient partial automation may be a competitive solution,” Heikkil‰ explained.

The control solution can be applied to any robot with an open control interface.

Data measured from the sensors of the robot can be stored in a cloud service, making it possible to run different analyses as a remote service. The robot’s performance can also be monitored in real time through the internet.