Special Issue on Robotic Technology to Extend Workers’ Physical Abilities and Skills
Shunji Moromugi and Toshiro Noritsugu
Robot-related technologies originally developed to cut the manufacturing industry workforce in the 1970s and 1980s produced many excellent high-quality products, high production efficiency, and reduced cost.
As consumer requirements changed, however, the guiding principle in industry shifted from mass production of single components to diversified small-lot “job shop” production favoring expert skills over mechanical automation due to higher efficiency and improved production line quality.
Demands for higher technical efficiency and a reduced burden on human physical labor gained recognition, opening up a new scope of robot activities as the focus changed from replacing human workers to expanding personnel capabilities and skills through robot “power assist” support.
Power assist techniques have just begun practical use in manufacturing fields. This special issue focuses on the new robotic technologies implemented to extend human capabilities and skills.
The first paper introduced discusses safety technology for a power assist system and the second a mobile robot manipulator using impedance control. Paper No.3 relates kinesthetic assist for improving window glass installation on a car production assembly line and No.4 proposes control automatically optimizing a power assist system’s viscosity. Paper No.5 deals with power assist control using human weight perception. The sixth paper describes wire-suspension-based transfer with power assist and the seventh power assist for moving flexible objects. Papers 8, 9, and 10 cover the development of wearable support systems targeting assembly line personnel, farmers, and racehorse trainers. Paper No.11 reports the development of a sensor monitoring pneumatic artificial muscle activation. The closer in this series proposes synchronization-based control for motion assist suits. This special issue thus includes many high-quality papers covering a wide variety of power assist topics reflecting the many viewpoints and expertise of their authors.
In closing, we express our sincerest gratitude to the authors, researchers, and staff who took part in compiling studies and presentations. We also thank the publishers and all those who contributed in so many ways to this issue’s publication.