The researchers say they have developed an algorithm that helps minimise a robot’s acceleration and deceleration, as well as the time the robot is at a standstill.

“We simply let the robot move slower instead of waiting for other robots and machines to catch up before carrying out the next sequence,” says Professor Bengt Lennartson.

“The optimization also determines the order in which the various operations are carried out to minimize energy consumption – without reducing the total execution time”.

The optimization never changes the robot’s operation path, only the speed and sequence.

“Thus, we can go into an existing robot cell and perform a quick optimization without impacting production or the current cycle”, said Lennartson.

First steps

The optimization program starts by logging the movements of each robot during an operations cycle, as well as any collision zones. This information is processed by the optimizer, which generates new control instructions that can be directly executed by the robots.

Kristofer Bengtsson, who is responsible for the implementation of the new optimization strategy, explained:  “The first test results have shown a significant improvement, such as a 15 to 40% energy reduction, but the results are still preliminary.

“In order to estimate the actual energy savings, further testing in industry is required.”

In robot-intensive manufacturing industries, such as bodywork factories in the automotive industry, robots consume about half of the total energy used for production. Indeed, American car manufacturer General Motors is one of the early sponsors of the research.

“The goal is to make this kind of optimization standard, and included in robots from the start”, said Bengtsson.

The research could provide some welcome relief for UK manufacturers, after a report released last week by the trade association EEF, claimed that the UK’s inflated energy prices were making them internationally uncompetitive.


In related news, Tesla founder Elon Musk shared an exclusive look at a Tesla factory’s manufacturing line on his Instagram this week. Musk said there were 542 robots in total, with 15 operating simultaneously at the central assembly point.

Tesla’s enormous Gigafactory is set to be completed early next year and is expected to be producing batteries in the first quarter of 2016.

Brad Allen

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie