The introduction of robotic systems in footwear allows the automation of multiple industrial manufacturing processes
The introduction of robotics within the footwear sector is becoming more and more important, due to the possibilities of automation of multiple industrial manufacturing processes. The research lines in the field of footwear robotics encompass both industrial and collaborative robots. The latter introduce a new paradigm as far as the use of the robots in the manufacturing plants is concerned. They are designed to prevent operators’ injuries and to use lighter materials and more rounded forms; they include as well emergency sensors to stop when necessary. With this system, no more uncomfortable security fences are needed, allowing a closer collaboration between human and robot, and much lower implementation costs.
The use of robots not only increases the quality of the final product, but also helps to increase productivity, assisting and complementing the tasks performed by the employees, thus improving the quality of their work. In INESCOP, we provide guidance on the introduction of robotics in such way that is useful for the manufacture of even small footwear batches, ensuring the high adaptability demanded by the manufacture of fashion footwear.
COLLABORATIVE ROBOTICSIn terms of collaborative robotics, our research is now focused on the application of robots in injection-extraction processes of soles for footwear. Certain production processes performed in the footwear sector require a considerable effort exerted by the operator. Therefore, INESCOP seeks to automate the tasks related to the extraction of the sole from the mould once it has been injected by means of a robotic system. For this purpose, it is now defining the necessary methodology and structure so that the CAD information coming from the tooling may be used by the company that injects soles to perform this extraction process, obtaining the different parameters needed to perform this process automatically using robots.
A key aspect of the research is the possibility of simulating the human-robot collaborative environment with advanced simulation systems to define collision-free collaborative robotic cells for footwear. The introduction of collaborative robotics in the footwear sector to work along with people requires a great safety assurance. This is why we intend to research and define possible robotic cells to perform the different operations in footwear manufacturing without any collisions, unexpected actions or dangerous movements, thus guaranteeing the safety of the operator and the environment.