This week, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, or ARM, Institute announced two new project calls. The Pittsburgh-based organization is seeking proposals for the use of augmented reality for manufacturing and sustainment and for the use of artificial intelligence and robotics in depot factories, as well as auditors for its training endorsement program.
ARM-TEC-21-03, the special call for technology projects, will award a single project up to $4.8 million, while the ARM-EWD-21-05 education and workforce development call said that up to 10 endorsement auditors will be reimbursed for costs in a one-year contract.
The ARM Institute is a public-private consortium dedicated to improving the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and strengthening national security through robotics and workforce development. It is a member of the Manufacturing USA network and is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. ARM has more than 300 members, including leading universities and research institutes, robotics companies, government bodies, and industry associations.
USAF seeks support innovations
According to the ARM Institute, the technology project call is based on priorities identified by the U.S. Air Force. The first is the development of augmented reality (AR) systems to “provide seamless, intuitive interaction with digital data for communication across time and space, and among people, machines, and manufacturing processes, to improve manufacturability and repairability” of Air Force assets, it said.
“Most commercial AR applications to date are purpose-built systems with significant development overhead that can be justified only for relatively well-structured, repeatable tasks,” noted the ARM Institute in its call for proposals. “In contrast, the defense aerospace manufacturing and sustainment community needs solutions for dynamic, low-volume, high-mix, and high-variability production environments.”
The goal of the AR project is to close technology gaps by improving the ability to track and recognize objects, interact with human users, and to understand and be robust in unstructured operational environments. The project will result in three demonstrations, including a robotic paint booth, physical defect capture, and digital repair visualization and active task assistance.
In the Depot Factory AI Robotics (Depot-FAIR) project, the Air Force is seeking modular hardware and software to enable the Mobile Multi-Use Robot (MMUR) to more easily perceive and work with fasteners in production environments and with an F-15 wing.
Shape Fidelity Inc., which developed the mobile manipulator, last year merged with Aerobotix. The MMUR will be demonstrated at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
The Depot-FAIR demonstrations will require vision systems to help the MMUR reliably identify mutliple fasteners and to enable the continuous operation of the robot.
ARM builds up training endorsement program
“The need for skilled Industry 4.0 manufacturing employees has never been greater,” said the ARM Institute in its project call.
Earlier this year, the organization launched the ARM Endorsement Program to recognize educational and training curriculums that meet manufacturing industry needs. It awarded the first three recipients in June, followed by collaborative robotics vendor Universal Robots A/S this month.
Other workforce development efforts at ARM include its RoboticsCareer.org online resource and a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help retrain people around Tampa Bay, Fla., unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ARM is looking for more auditors to evaluate training programs for endorsements. They will need to spend about five to six hours on initial evaluations of each application, nine to 10 hours on a full review, and two to three hours on renewal reviews.
Auditors must be familiar with educational best practices, be able to conduct some research on the applicants, and understand manufacturing automation. They will attend training and periodic review meetings, said the institute.
Cobot training at the Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing Training Center (RAMTEC) in Marion, Ohio. Source: Universal Robots
Applications open to qualified individuals
To apply for either project, applicants must be U.S. nationals and members of the ARM Institute. To learn about membership, e-mail [email protected].
A webinar at 12:00 noon EST on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, will discuss the criteria for the Air Force technology project call. Concept papers are due Dec. 17, and the ARM Institute will send out invitations for full proposals around Jan. 17, 2022. Submissions of proposal packages are due Feb. 18, with final selections around March 25 and subaward execution on May 9. The selected projects must begin no later than May 9, 2022.
Cover letters and resumes for the education and workforce development call are due on Dec. 29, 2021, with interviews to be conducted in the first week of January 2022. Auditors will be notified around Jan. 12, and service contracts will be finalized on Jan. 21, according to ARM. Auditor training is scheduled to commence on Feb. 1.
About the Author
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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