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Next-Generation Robotics and Automation Program


The objective of the Next-Generation Robotics and Automation Program is to develop and deploy advances in measurement science to safely increase the versatility, autonomy, and rapid re-tasking of intelligent robots and automation technologies for smart manufacturing and cyber-physical systems applications.


This Program addresses the measurement science and standards necessary to enable the next generation of robots and automation systems and to facilitate their adoption in manufacturing in the U.S. The program addresses major barriers including perception, manipulation, mobility, autonomy, and safety. It does so through targeted projects that develop standards and performance measures that will help spur development and applications of intelligent robots that safely operate in close proximity to people. The targeted manufacturers include both large manufacturers and the small and medium-sized enterprises that comprise 86% of all manufacturing establishments, but often lag in adopting new technologies.

The Program directly supports the Engineering Laboratory’s goal to enable the next generation of innovative and competitive manufacturing, construction, and cyber-physical systems through advances in measurement science, and addresses the core competence “Intelligent sensing, control, processes, and automation for cyber-physical systems”.

Progress in robotics is currently hindered by the lack of a common language and tools to specify quantitatively the performance that is needed and objectively and reproducibly measure how well systems meet the performance requirements.  This Program applies NIST’s measurement science expertise together with its robotics expertise, to ensure that U.S. industries successfully leverage the huge potential of robotics. NIST is uniquely positioned to foster collaboration between users, robot manufacturers, and academics to identify common robotics measurement science needs, develop standard test methods to address them, and encourage end-user adoption. NIST is actively involved in safety standards for robots, so has the necessary contacts and exposure to manufacturers, integrators and users that will allow successful transfer of knowledge to industry.

Major Accomplishments:

Some recent accomplishments in safe human-robot interactions include:

  • NIST personnel participated in drafting the, now approved, ISO 10218 standards (parts 1 and 2), with special focus on the human-robot collaboration requirements.
  • Harmonized ANSI/RIA R15.06 robot safety with the new ISO 10218 standards and with the Canadian standard (CAN/CSA-Z434-03 (R2008)) to avoid inconsistent safety requirements internationally. A draft of the combined standard will be balloted in late FY2012
  • A test device was developed for measuring the forces exerted by a robot on a person and tested on a prototype robot.

Some recent accomplishments in sensing and perception for manufacturing applications include:

  • A first draft of a standard for static pose measurement systems (under ASTM E57) will be balloted before the end of FY2012.
  • NIST led the creation of ASTM E2807 - 11 Standard Specification for 3D Imaging Data Exchange, Version 1.0, describes a data file exchange format for three-dimensional (3D) imaging data.
  • Some recent accomplishments in manipulation for manufacturing applications include:
  • NIST revitalized the ANSI/RIA R15.05 committee on robot performance standards, with the goal of developing new performance measures for modern robots that have more complex control systems and that need greater accuracy (as opposed to repeatability).
  • A major product announcement in the medical diagnostic test area arose from CRADAS established to transfer technology in the micro- and nano-manipulation area.

Some recent accomplishments in mobility and autonomy for manufacturing applications include:

  • NIST brought together the RIA and ITSDF communities to establish a working group to explore new standards for mobile-base robots.
  • NIST activities led to the approval of a new IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Standards Working Group on Knowledge Representation to address standard knowledge representation and planning methods for manufacturing