Japan's Robot Development Project Enters 2nd Phase

Feb 17, 2009
Tatsuhiko Hayashi, Nikkei Automotive Technology
The RT system for searching inside collapsed buildings developed by International Rescue System Institute
The RT system for searching inside collapsed buildings developed by International Rescue System Institute
[Click to enlarge image]
The robotic delivery system developed by Murata Machinery
The robotic delivery system developed by Murata Machinery
[Click to enlarge image]

NEDO, an independent administrative institution in Japan, selected six types of robots that will be continued to be developed for the coming two years under its "Project for Strategic Development of Advanced Robotics Elemental Technologies."

This is a five-year research and development project that started in 2006, and the selection was part of a stage gate evaluation regarded as an interim assessment. And NEDO demonstrated operations of two robots that were ready for presentation.

Eighteen groups participated in the "stage 1," which covered the period from fiscal 2006 to 2008 and saw the development of elemental technologies. At the stage gate evaluation, six groups were selected from three fields, which are next-generation industrial robots, service robots and robots for specific environments such as disasters. And NEDO plans to select one more service robot for continued development as soon as possible.
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In respect to the next-generation industrial robots, Mitsubishi Electric Corp's "R&D of Robotic System for FA Equipment Assembly," an industrial robotic system capable of handling soft items, as well as Fanuc Ltd's "Development of Cell Production/Assembly System for Advanced Industrial Countries," a human-robot cooperative cell production/assembly system, will be continued.

As for the service robots, NEDO selected the "R&D of System for Handling Randomly Piled Laundry," a manipulation RT (robot technology) system intended for organizing by Kagawa University and its partners, as well as the "Development of Omni-directional Autonomous Delivery Robot," a robotic delivery system by Murata Machinery Ltd and its partners.

In regard to the robots for specific environments, the "High-speed Running Search Robots for Confined Space," an RT system for moving inside collapsed buildings developed by International Rescue System Institute (IRS) and its partners as well as Tokyu Construction Co Ltd's "Development of Waste Separation and Sorting System Using Next-generation Manipulator," an RT system for dealing with construction waste, were selected for continued development.

At the presentation, NEDO demonstrated IRS's RT system for moving inside collapsed buildings and Murata Machinery's robotic delivery system. The IRS's system uses a crawler that enters a dangerous disaster site, moves through obstacles, collects information and transmits the information to users outside the building. IRS will continue to develop functions for autonomous movement, route mapping and stable communication.

The robotic delivery system uses a delivery robot intended for reducing the burden on nurses by, for example, delivering drugs to patients late at night. Murata Machinery plans to periodically conduct verification testing in hospitals to improve its utility.