How robots are helping Austrian students to build the skills for an automated future

Students in Austria are learning the latest robot programming techniques at an advanced robotics lab in Wiener Neustadt. Developing applications to solve puzzles, detect coffee capsules and recognize human faces, the students are getting a good grounding in many of the technologies and techniques they will use in their future careers.


The application: 
Teaching students programming techniques used in industrial robotics applications   

The challenge: 
Provide a learning environment and solutions to help students develop their skills in a practical ‘hands-on’ way   

The solution: 
The University of Applied Sciences at Wiener Neustadt has built a robotics lab with a range of ABB solutions, including collaborative and industrial robots and a variety of programming suites  

Robots from ABB are playing a major role in helping students at the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) at Wiener Neustadt to build their future careers in robotics.  

Using ABB YuMi collaborative robots, students have designed applications that include solving a Rubik’s Cube puzzle, sorting coffee capsules into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ batches and a virtual application that can recognize human faces. 

The new three-year Bachelor’s degree in robotics gives students a thorough grounding in mechanics, electronics, computer science, sensors and actuators. Students learn how to program industrial robots in their first semester, while by the end of the course, they will be able to develop and operate mobile, intelligent robots. 

The robotics lab at the UAS was created in 2019, with ABB Austria being a main partner from the beginning. Focusing on ABB robots exclusively, the university started by using ABB’s IRB14000 dual-arm YuMi® collaborative robot that can work safely alongside people with no need for barriers or fencing. 

The number of robots in the lab quickly expanded, with the addition of two IRB 1200 robots, an IRB 360 Delta robot with conveyor tracking and an IRB 1100 which is also used in a separate Maker Space available to the public.   

UAS Wiener Neustadt also uses ABB's simulation and offline programming software, RobotStudio. This allows robots to be programmed on a PC without shutting down production. Tasks such as training, programming and optimization can all be done offline without needing to interrupt the robot’s current tasks. Later in the course, students start to learn RAPID, the official programming language used to control ABB industrial robots. 

The lab also uses the ABB IRC5 compact controller, which offers the capabilities of the powerful IRC5 robot controller in a compact format, saving space while also being easy to commission. 

Using YuMi’s human-like abilities 

One of the projects demonstrates the human-like abilities of the YuMi cobot by using it to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  Developed by student Nasayeh Amin Same, the application starts with YuMi presenting the cube to a camera, which scans all sides and then sends the data about colors and the orders of the squares to a MATLAB suite. Using a commercially available algorithm, MATLAB works out the moves needed to solve the puzzle and then instructs the YuMi on the moves needed to complete it. 

Mr Same also developed new fingers for the YuMi to make it easier to grip the cube. “Overall, I was impressed with the precision of the YuMi and how easy it was to program,” says Mr. Same. 

Another student project was used to demonstrate how YuMi could be used to distinguish between different components. The project, devised by Wolfgang Fabits and Gabriel Dorfleitner, used 3D printed fingers on the YuMi to pick up coffee capsules and sort them into different trays.  

Facial recognition could aid safety 

The virtual project developed by Timothy Würrer was based on the idea of using a webcam with facial detection software. The project uses the center of the detected face as the point it follows - as the face moves around in the frame, the robot follows it. “This has real applications in collaborative working,” says Mr Würrer. “It could be used to tell a robot where the person it is working with is located, allowing it to avoid collisions with human beings.” 

Comprehensive learning support from ABB 

Although the students’ lecturers are the first line of support, ABB Austria is located near the University and can help with more involved or challenging robotics issues. 

Alexander Nemecek, head of the robotic study program is emphasizing the ease of use of the robots. “We have had very good experience of using ABB robots. RobotStudio in particular is a very powerful tool – it means we can use software only, without having to use the robot itself, which is ideal for teaching students during the pandemic.” 

“Support from ABB is very good,” says Nemecek. “Originally, we intended to select a variety of robots from different manufacturers, but I am now very happy that we chose ABB due to the excellent RobotStudio software - ABB supplied us with a complete solution with everything we needed to ensure students get the best education in robotics.   

“For real industrial applications, students need to know a lot about the systems. Teaching a high level of skills will ensure there are people with the understanding of how to program a robot.” 

ABB’s support for the robotics lab and the university’s students will help ensure a continuing pool of talented young people entering this increasingly important industry. 


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