A humanoid alongside workers
A functional head, two skillfull solid arms, the Nextage robot joins human teams on production lines.
As far as applications are concerned, the only limit is the imagination of Kawada Industries’customers. Humanoid robots working along- side humans on production lines? The Japanese company Kawada Industries took this idea from sci- ence fiction to make it a reality. These robots have been designed to work in high-tech industry next to skilled workers. The latest model is called Nextage. Flexible and up- gradable, in theory it has unlimited competence and capacity.
The story of Nextage began back in 1999, when Professor Hirochika Inoue, a world famous robotics researcher, contacted Kawada Industries, a com- pany specialized in construction and architectural design. The engineer was looking for an expert, highly qualified partner for developing a human- oid robot for his laboratory at Tokyo University.
The challenge was taken up with great success. After Hirochika Inoue retired from the university, he became an advisor to Kawada Industries and when a new company Kawada Robotics was formed in April 2013, he was appointed Chief Technology Officer.
Among the models created by Kawada Robotics, there is one that stands out. The aptly named Nex- tage has started a new era in robotics.
Nextage is certainly the skilled worker that pro- duction directors had always dreamt about. It is reliable, tireless, multi-tasking, extremely precise and operational on most industrial assembly lines. Fitted with four cameras and two articulated arms, Nextage can easily perform all sorts of cumber- some or tedious operations normally carried out by humans. Nextage is flexible, obviously capable of learning new movements and it easily adapts to any changes in a specific production method.
The most revolutionary aspect of Nextage is that it is the first robot to have been designed to work in the same environment as human operators. In Japan, it does not require any protection system, since it is considered perfectly safe, with no dan- ger at all for its co-workers.
Today over a hundred Nextage robots are working day and night for a number of hi-tech Japanese companies, such as Glory, specialized in money handling machines, as well as Hitachi, the elec- tronics giant.
Inspired by the success of its humanoid robots, Kawada Robotics have decided to further develop their capacities.
They have created Nextage Open, a platform op- erating on the principle of open source software. Thanks to Nextage Open, researchers can develop new applications and functions using an industry- proven robot.
Airbus is one of the major companies using the system. In Cadiz, Spain, the famous aircraft manu- facturer is currently working on a robotics solution to optimize its assembly processes. A Nextage ro- bot has joined the workshops last February and Airbus is working with the Spanish research com- pany Tecnalia to find a way of fully implementing it into their production.
The technological evolution initiated by Nextage Open is in its early stages, but its potential is vast. By combining the performance of the Nextage robot with the industrial expertise of customers, Nextage Open provides robotics with the means of exploring an infinite number of applications.