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Since the opening of our Customer and Innovation Center in Ulm, we’ve been making good use of the facilities. Our teams have been collaborating and creating new innovations that will transform your world – one of which, the Smart Flex Effector, has won this year’s Hermes Award.
Anyone who visits our Customer and Innovation Center cannot fail to pick up on the bustling atmosphere. It’s a hive of activity where our teams are pressing ahead with strategic forward-looking topics and developing ideas for new business models that will benefit you.
One such example is Smart MechatroniX, a solution platform for factory automation. We realized early on that smarter, more flexible, connected software-based solutions are what’s needed to make the Factory of the Future a reality. And ideally these solutions should be available from one source. Talking to our customers reinforced this view and gave us confidence that the market need is there.
So, in 2019 we set-up an intensive four-week task force in Ulm – and from this, the vision behind Smart MechatroniX was born. It combines mechatronical hardware with sensors, automation and software, and therefore manages to create brand new solutions for future-facing factories. Every product from the Smart MechatroniX solution platform fulfills three key value propositions for our customers: fast and intuitive commissioning, increased productivity and degree of automation, as well as open interfaces.
One of the products in the Smart MechatroniX range, the Smart Flex Effector, is not only an exciting – and award-winning – innovation, it’s a landmark development for us, being the first solution that we created from start to finish at the new Customer and Innovation Center in Ulm.
Changing the world of handling isn’t an easy task, so when we started developing the product we decided to start from a blank page and spoke with industrial partners and customers to create something completely different.
The result was the Smart Flex Effector, a sensor-based compensation unit for robotic arms, which increases the precision of articulated as well as cartesian robots (multi-axis systems). The position of the workpiece is detected with high-resolution sensors and translated into active correction movements of the robot. Thanks to the smart connection, the adjustment is carried out in real time. This tactile technology has multiple benefits for customers – it reduces errors, simplifies and speeds up processes, and therefore saves time and cost.
Being part of the wider Bosch Group, we benefit from having strong support and expert know-how available in all fields when working on new developments. The Smart Flex Effector originated as a product idea at Bosch Corporate Research – the central department for research and advance engineering. We finalized the idea and completed the product industrialization, brought it to market and launched it. Furthermore, we were able to carry out many practical tests of example applications at Bosch. At the time, refrigerator glass shelves had to be inserted manually, as robots didn’t yet have the required sensitivity to tell whether a shelf is sitting right, and this can result in shelves getting scratched. The Smart Flex Effector makes the robotic arm more flexible and improves its precision, so that adjustments can be made.
The refrigerator is just one of many examples of how this product could significantly increase the degree of automation in the future. Other use cases include battery manufacturing, installations and cable assembly, but the possibilities are extensive.
The Smart MechatroniX team not only broke new ground in terms of product – its approach in terms of work culture was also an important part of this project’s success. At our Customer and Innovation Center, we’re implementing flat hierarchies, which encourages a culture where people can be open about failure, be encouraged to contribute ideas and take on more responsibility. This in turn creates a culture that is conducive to innovation.
It’s not only our associates in Ulm who are convinced that this approach works. Ultimately, it’s about creating new products that will solve our customers’ challenges. The Smart Flex Effector is a good example of how beneficial collaboration is and also how important it is to get the early involvement of our customers when developing new innovations.
The team are delighted that the product has been so well received by customers and received such a momentous accolade in the Hermes Award.