AdhocMRK – Ad hoc integrable collaborating robot systems for partially automated assembly processes

The AdhocMRK project is funded by the Kompetenzzentrum Mittelstand (KME) and has a duration of two years (1 Jan 2019 – 31 Dec 2020).  The aim is to develop a flexible robot system which can be used on an ad hoc basis and integrated into an existing, partially automated production or manufacturing line at any given point without major preparation measures. The necessary setup is to be performed by an adjuster without in-depth programming knowledge and without an individual security certification. To do so, the installer can create a formula for the individual application from a list of ready-made basic functions. These basic functions are safe in themselves and, by supplementing safety-related requirements for the entire system, allow flexible use of the robot cell at different workstations without the need for an individual safety certification. The robot system is also to be equipped with a user interface (UI) consisting of speech, optical and acoustic signals to allow natural communication between worker and robot.


The production and assembly of high-quality mechatronic products in Bavarian medium-sized companies often involves a large number of variants and therefore small batch sizes. This places extremely high demands on flexibility in assembly and therefore involves a high level of personnel deployment. In order to maintain and increase the competitiveness of Bavaria as a production site, the degree of automation must be increased to reduce costs.

The use of collaborating robots, which can be directly integrated into otherwise largely manual assembly lines to perform individual subtasks, offers the possibility of optimally exploiting the potential flexibility of humans while at the same time saving assembly time, personnel and therefore costs by gradually increasing the degree of automation.


This specific situation in medium-sized companies places very high demands on the flexibility, easy programming and setup, and safety of such a robot system.


This research project aims to develop a highly flexible, ad hoc integrable system for collaborating robots for use in partially automated assembly lines.

If required, the robot should be able to be integrated flexibly at any point in an existing line and perform individual assembly steps there, possibly only in phases. Such assembly steps include, for example, handling activities such as picking up and passing on parts, inserting them into a jig or an assembly carrier, and simple test steps in which a part is inserted into an automatic testing machine and removed again.

The programming and setup of the robot is a particular challenge due to the high flexibility required for small batch sizes. The aim is to design this in such a way that it can be carried out by an installer or foreman without special programming knowledge in an economically reasonable time. To do so, the installer should be able to create an assembly formula for the respective individual application from a list of ready-made basic operations, which is then automatically supplemented by machine learning, with a few additional manual learning steps if necessary, to form a functioning sequence. The robot system is equipped with suitable sensor technology for this purpose.

The robot system is to be equipped with a user interface (UI) consisting of speech, gestures, optical and acoustic signals, which allows natural communication between the workers and the robot up to a certain degree of complexity. This UI enables the robot to exchange certain defined information with the worker in the line. This could include, for example, disturbances, dangerous situations, or if a part is not properly aligned or is out of reach and therefore cannot be gripped. The worker should also be able to interact with the robot, e.g. to start or stop the robot’s work process, or to change its speed. Manual learning steps are also to be triggered via this interface.

The safety concept is a particular challenge, since the working areas of people and robots overlap and it must be possible for the robot and worker to work simultaneously. A normed safety concept is being developed for this purpose.

Results and benefits

The manufacturing companies of the Bavarian medium-sized business sector require flexible automation systems that can be easily integrated into existing and proven assembly lines. The concept developed within this research project offers companies this possibility. In particular, companies that manufacture high-quality and varied products in partially or non-automated lines can benefit directly from the results.


The methods developed here for structuring assembly activities into individual, inherently safe and qualified basic operations, from which flexible individual manufacturing formulae can be quickly created, can also be easily transferred to other applications. The main, new building blocks here are the functions for self-learning of the parameters required by the basic operations and the corresponding UI.

Industry partners

Industrial partners in this project are the companies Dehn & Söhne GmbH, Wieland Electric GmbH, Wöhner GmbH & Co. KG, Swoboda, Robominds GmbH, Universal Robots GmbH, and Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG.