Henrik Schunk is managing partner of SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, family run business out of Germany with over 1800 employees and presence in 50 countries. As such, he is responsible for the Business Unit Automation and the cross-divisional departments Sales, Marketing, Continuous Improvement and IT. SCHUNK is one of the leaders in clamping and gripping technology featuring more than 10’000 specialized products.
In this episode, we look at recent developments in gripping technology, challenges that still remain after over 70 years of development, and the need for task-adapted systems and high-end products including anthropomorphic robotic hands.
Henrik Schunk also discusses his hopes for service robotics as one of the main areas of development in automation. To drive the field forward, his company organizes the SCHUNK Expert Days that bring together some of the main actors in service robotics. He also presents his view on European Robotics as Chairman of EUnited Robotics.
Today’s episode is the second of a two part series on the event, in which we talk to Bernd Liepert CTO of KUKA AG and president of EUROP and Rich Walker from Shadow Robot.
Bernd Liepert is the Chief Technical Officer of KUKA AG, a german company founded over 100 years ago. It is now one of the world’s leading suppliers in the field of robot technology as well as in plant and systems engineering. Most well known for its industrial robots initially used in the automotive industry, KUKA is now exploring next generation industrial and service robots. The company has 5,700 employees and generates a business volume of around EUR 900 million.
Liepert joined KUKA Roboter in 1990 as a Mathematician and Software Developer. In 1996 he became the Head of Control Development and in 1998 he was a member of the Board of Management responsible for Development and Design. In 2000, Bernd Liepert served as the CEO of KUKA Roboter and recently in 2010 he joined KUKA AG as its Chief Technical Officer.
Liepert is also the and the President of the European Robotics Technology Platform (EUROP) as of May 2010. EUROP is an industry-driven framework that aims at strengthening Europe’s competitiveness in robotic R&D, as well as global markets, and to improve quality of life.
Rich Walker is the managing director of Shadow Robot, a UK based company. He tells us about the beautiful history of Shadow Robot, starting from bipedal robots 20 years ago, to carving robot hand prototypes out of maple wood and finally developing dexterous human-like manipulation. Shadow robot now has one of the worlds most advanced robot hands, the Shadow Dexterous Hand, currently in version C6. It provides 24 movements that allow for a direct mapping from a human to the robot, has integrated sensing and position control and can be fitted with touch sensing on the fingertips. To make their hands compliant and user-friendly, Shadow has been investigating new actuation such as pneumatical artificial muscles and artificial tendons driven by a single motor. Mostly research oriented, the robot has been used to study cognitive science, brain computer interfaces, and prosthesis. Some of its famous clients include NASA and BBC.