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Winners of the Second Call for Applicants for the FY2016 Demonstration Project for the Introduction of Robots Decided 104 proposals were adopted for the utilization of robots in new areas

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) examined the applicants for the second call for the FY2016 Demonstration Project for the Introduction of Robots and decided to adopt 104 projects proposed by applicants for the utilization of robots in new areas concerning the eight categories of proposals: 83 for demonstrations of robot introduction and 21 for feasibility studies (FS).

1. Outline of the demonstration project

The New Robot Strategy, a national strategy decided by the Japan Economic Revitalization Headquarters in February 2015, states that Japan should aim to become the “center for the utilization of the world’s state-of-the-art robot technology” toward a goal of realizing a “robot revolution.”

 

The Demonstration Project for the Introduction of Robots is an initiative for advancing demonstrations and tests for introducing robots into frontier fields where robots are not yet utilized in the areas of monodzukuri and services, toward the realization of a society in which robots are utilized in the broad fields stated in the strategy.

2. Winners of the second call for applicants of the project

METI received proposals as applications for the project up to June 30, 2016, and an examination committee of external experts and other councils examined the proposals. Based on the results of the examination, METI decided to adopt 104 proposals: 83 for demonstrations of robot introduction and 21 for FS.

For a list of the winners, see the Appendix. For major case examples of the winners’ projects by category, please see the following:

Improving labor productivity

Introducing robots into the process of packaging a variety of small parts

The packaging of small parts in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to meet bulk orders often increases the burden on workers and causes delays in shipping. Introducing robots in this process will contribute to developing a system in which workers are able to pick out a variety of such small parts from parts stockers only as needed. This system will decrease the number of dedicated workers from between two and ten to just one and will contribute to concentrating the extra workers on operations other than packaging.

Introducing robots into the process of assembling discs for magnetic reverse display devices

The process of assembling display part discs has limitations in production volume due to manual operation by workers using tweezers to affix extremely-thin parts to such discs. Introducing robots in this manual operation will contribute to affixing and arraying such parts in a highly accurate manner, thereby increasing production speed (productivity will triple), decreasing production costs, and stabilizing the quality of products.

Alternating and supporting work under severe conditions and skilled labor

Introducing robots into high temperature environment processes such as pouring hot water into metal mold castings and removing products from molds

The process of pouring hot water into metal mold castings and removing products from molds requires skilled-labor workers due to the severe conditions under temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius or higher. The three-dimensional digitalization of meticulous, complicated motions of skilled workers and the reproduction of the data by robots will contribute to freeing skilled workers from labor under severe conditions and encouraging them to focus on passing down their skills to younger workers.

Introducing robots into the operation for inspecting narrow spaces under road bridges

The operation of inspecting narrow spaces between bridge beams under road bridges often forces inspectors to remain physically bent over at the working spaces, making it difficult to escape in case of emergency; this imposes large mental and physical burdens on these inspectors. Introducing wireless, self-propelled robots into the operation will contribute to reducing such burdens and ensuring safety when inspecting road bridges covering narrow spaces, thereby securing the safety and trustworthiness of road infrastructure.

 

Introducing robots into the fields of complex or difficult work

Introducing robots into the process of manufacturing wire harnesses

The process of manufacturing wire harnesses, composed of bundles of wires, has been facing difficulties in the introduction of robots since it requires complex work, including attaching small parts to flexible materials. In this project, the efforts for introducing robots into the operation for inserting soft materials of about 3mm in diameter into wire harnesses and advancing the automation of complex operation processes will contribute to reducing defective products and breaking away from the existing labor-intensive business model, thereby fortifying cost competitiveness.

Introducing robots into the process of picking and sorting parts

While introducing robots into the operation of picking target parts has been advancing, the operation of sorting assembly parts of automatic devices is still being conducted manually due to the variety of materials, sizes, weights, and shapes of such parts. Introducing robots into sorting as well as picking operations will contribute to reducing the burden on workers and preventing mistaken sorting due to human error.

Introducing robots into the so-called “three-products industries” consisting of food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries

Collaboration between workers and robots in the process of packing powder-form cosmetic products into individual boxes

While the types of products are dramatically increasing in the cosmetics industry to meet a variety of consumer tastes, business investment in the industry has been less developed due to the industry needing to address the diversified product ranges as well as the rapid changeover of products. Robotizing the process of finishing products collaboratively with workers, in which workers will inspect products while robots assemble product cases, will contribute to realizing a process of finishing products in collaboration between workers and robots and relieving workers from the burden, while maintaining productivity.

Utilizing robots in “backstage” or other processes in the service industry

Introducing robots into the process of inspecting for salmonella

Most processes involved in inspecting livestock hygiene are manually conducted by skilled inspectors, and this process entails a severe physical burden due to the need for heavy equipment. Automating processes by introducing robots that are able to handle the same type of specimen containers and equipment as those for inspectors will contribute to enhancing work efficiency, reducing the occurrence of re-inspection work through preventing human error, and dramatically decreasing the frequency of the need for inspectors’ direct contact with contaminated sources, e.g., culture solutions.

Utilizing robots in everyday spaces

Demonstration projects for introducing service robots into airports

Haneda Airport will call for applicants for demonstration projects involving service robots—including those for guide, transfer support and cleaning, which will contribute to solving challenges in services and enhancing customers’ satisfaction—and will repeat demonstrations for the selected robots. This initiative will contribute to showcasing a specific case example of solving social challenges through the use of robots. The airport will convey the demonstration results to the world by 2020.

Fortifying functions of system integrators

Introducing robots into the process of bundling sheets in the linen industry

While the demand for linen products is growing to meet the growing number of overseas visitors to Japan, the process of bundling linen sheets still largely depends on manual labor. As a goal to be achieved in this project, constructing robotic systems that recognize sheet types and automatically bundles them by type will contribute to reducing the burden on workers and ensuring the stable quality of bundling. In addition, the process of constructing such systems will be standardized and the details of the systems will be publicized, thereby promoting efforts for introducing robots into society.

3. Contact details and consultation counter concerning the call for applications

Information on the call for the FY2016 Demonstration Project for the Introduction of Robots

http://www.jara.jp/hojyo/koubo.htmlexternal link

Consultation counter concerning the call for applications

M. Takamoto and M. Adachi, Japan Robot Association
Telephone: 03-3434-2919; Facsimile: 03-3578-1404

Release date

August 5, 2016

Division in Charge

Robotics Policy Office, Industrial Machinery Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau

Related Information

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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