Put the toolbox away—new robot assembles IKEA chairs

The device, consisting of two mechanical arms with grippers, starts the process by taking photos of the parts spread on the floo
The device, consisting of two mechanical arms with grippers, starts the process by taking photos of the parts spread on the floor with a 3D camera, which is supposed to mimic the cluttered environment after flat-pack furniture is unboxed

Sick of struggling with incomprehensible instructions and a baffling array of planks and screws? Help is at hand in the form of a new robot that can assemble an IKEA chair in minutes.

The robot, developed by scientists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, can put together the wooden IKEA chair in just eight minutes and 55 seconds—a swift timing that may give even DIY enthusiasts a run for their money.

The device, consisting of two mechanical arms with grippers, starts the process by taking photos of the parts spread on the floor with a 3D camera, which is supposed to mimic the cluttered environment after flat-pack is unboxed.

Each arm has a similar range of motions to that of a human, while sensors mounted on the wrists monitor how much force is being exerted by mechanical fingers as it picks up tiny parts to expertly put the chair together.

"For a robot, putting together an IKEA chair with such precision is more complex than it looks," said team leader Pham Quang Cuong, an assistant professor at the university.

A combination of industrial robot arms, parallel grippers, force-detecting sensors (mounted on the robotic “wrists”) and 3-D cameras successfully assembled an IKEA chair in around 20 minutes. Credit: Suárez-Ruiz, Zhou, Pham, Sci. Robot. 3, eaat6385 (2018)
"The job of assembly... has to be broken down into different steps, such as identifying where the different chair parts are, the force required to grip the parts, and making sure the robotic arms move without colliding into each other."

"For a robot, putting together an IKEA chair with such precision is more complex than it looks," said team leader Pham
"For a robot, putting together an IKEA chair with such precision is more complex than it looks," said team leader Pham Quang Cuong, an assistant professor at the university

The team is now looking into further developing the robot so it can learn to construct furniture by copying humans, reading an instruction manual or even just viewing a finished product.

Video depicting instances when the robotic team failed at IKEA chair assembly. Credit: Francisco Suárez-Ruiz and Quang-Cuong Pham, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

They are also working with the automotive and aircraft manufacturing industry where the robot could be used for such tasks as drilling holes in aircraft.

But those looking for help in assembling more household items from Swedish furniture giant IKEA may be disappointed—for now the unnamed can only construct a humble .

A robot by NTU Singapore autonomously assembles an IKEA chair
The NTU robot is designed to mimic the genericity of human "hardware" used to assemble objects. For instance, each robotic arm is equipped with parallel grippers to pick up objects, and has force sensors to determine how strongly the "fingers" are gripping. This makes the robot more human-like in its manipulation of objects. Credit: NTU Singapore

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More information: Francisco Suárez-Ruiz et al. Can robots assemble an IKEA chair?, Science Robotics (2018). DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aat6385

© 2018 AFP

Citation: Put the toolbox away—new robot assembles IKEA chairs (2018, April 19) retrieved 23 October 2018 from https://techxplore.com/news/2018-04-toolbox-awaynew-robot-ikea-chairs.html
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