A robot that builds IKEA furniture in a snap


Robot arms assemble a flat-pack chair

Two robotic arms work in harmony to knock together a ‘Stefan’ chair made by Swedish furniture company IKEA. Credit: F. Suárez-Ruiz et al./Sci. Robot.

Technology

19 April 2018

Machine made from off-the-shelf components constructs chair from a kit in less than 25 minutes.

Researchers in Singapore have designed a robot that can assemble a chair made by Swedish furniture company IKEA.

Most robots cannot perform complex tasks without supervision, and manufacturing robots usually require the parts involved in an item’s construction to be placed in known locations. But the robot created by Quang-Cuong Pham and his colleagues at Nanyang Technological University uses cameras to correctly identify relevant parts in a cluttered environment. An algorithm allows its two arms to move simultaneously without colliding, and the device inserts pieces correctly by relying on force sensors to tailor its actions. The robot needs little more than 20 minutes to produce a finished chair.

The researchers programmed their robot — which was built from off-the-shelf components — with a sequence of moves for assembling the chair. But they say that future robots could be taught to learn instructions from manuals.

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