This year’s Hermes Award winner is German company Schunk GmbH & Co. KG. The Hermes Award is one of the world’s most prestigious industrial technology awards, and the winner is Schunk, a global leader in innovative gripping systems – both an owner-operated German family business and a global player. The award was presented during the Hannover Messe Opening Ceremony April 23, 2017, by Germany’s Minister for Education and Research, Johanna Wanka.
“The company’s award-winning solution supports human-robot collaboration, making it a vital part of the smart factory tool kit. It is therefore a perfect fit for Hannover Messe, which this year will once again play a key role in reflecting and driving the ongoing development of Industry 4.0,” said Dr. Jochen Köckler as the Deutsche Messe Managing Board member in charge of Hannover Messe.
Schunk’s JL1 co-act gripper is an intelligent modular gripping system for human-robot collaboration that is capable of directly interacting and communicating with its human operator. The JL1’s integrated sensor systems effectively envelop the module in its own safety “bubble” by continually tracking the proximity of humans and triggering evasive action to avoid any direct human-machine contact. They also enable the module to grip, handle and assemble objects of all geometries. The module’s jaws are able to measure gripping force and have tactile sensors, so their operation is highly adaptive and responsive. The sensor constellation also includes two cameras that enable the gripper to see its surroundings in 3D and help it to detect workpieces.
These are just some of the reasons why the JL1 impressed the Hermes Award jury, which was headed by Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Schunk’s self-learning gripping system is ideally suited to highly flexible Industry 4.0 manufacturing environments where humans and robots work collaboratively at close quarters.
“Safe and barrier-free human-robot collaboration in Industry 4.0 manufacturing operations with small production runs, high component diversity and frequent retooling is only possible if every part of the manufacturing system is intelligent, right down to the end effector level. Schunk’s JL1 is a perfect example of a state-of-the-art, smart end effector, which is why the jury has chosen it as this year’s winning entry,” explained Dr. Wahlster.
Apart from Schunk, the following companies were nominated for this year’s Hermes Award: AGS-Verfahrenstechnik GmbH (Stade, Germany), Augumenta (Oulu, Finland), Linz Center of Mechatronics (Linz, Austria), and Noonee AG (Zurich, Switzerland).