They give the starting signal for many a robotics career: Frank Zimmermann and his colleagues design the KUKA robotics portfolio for external educational institutions – and thus offer institutions the opportunity to teach robotics in the classroom or in training.
As Business Development Manager Education, Frank Zimmermann coordinates the related topics across almost all KUKA divisions, whether Development, Engineering, Production, Marketing or Customer Service. And because hardly any training topic has its finger on the pulse as much as robotics and new technologies, there are always new concepts, products and tools on the agenda. We talked to him about the latest trends in education – and why education robotics is more than just a business.
Can you briefly cover KUKA’s activities in education and training for our readers?
Frank Zimmermann: We see training institutions as an extension of our KUKA College. Our goal is for external training institutions to be able to train in the area of KUKA Robotics as users require. To this end, we offer prefabricated training stations for beginners in a package with training documents and, if necessary, training for the instructors. The whole thing can also be rounded off with appropriate simulation software, quasi “plug and play”. For advanced users – especially for application engineers and researchers – we offer individually tailored components from our complete portfolio for their own integration. In addition, we support events in the field of education with demo equipment and information booths.
KUKA products and solutions are usually found in industrial halls rather than in classrooms. Why is KUKA active in the field of education?
Frank Zimmermann: Dual training systems are very practice-oriented. That is why there are numerous training institutions that equip laboratories with equipment that is very true to industry in order to provide training that is as close to practice as possible. In the Education segment, our business is primarily strategic. We want to bring tomorrow’s customers and users into contact with our technology today, to make them aware of KUKA at an early stage and familiarize them with us.
Are there trends and developments that you are observing? How have the market and requirements changed?
Frank Zimmermann: The topic of Industrie 4.0 was an important impetus. In general, robotics has experienced a real hype as a result. As a result, robotics was no longer a niche area, but has become widespread in all industry segments – and thus naturally also penetrated training. Currently, digitization is strongly influencing current developments, with aspects such as remote training or the use of virtual reality. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed digital transformation and digital training even further.
For what purpose do schools and universities use KUKA’s education offering? Is it simply for robotics basics, or are promising projects to be realized?
Frank Zimmermann: The focus is clearly on basic training across the board, for professions such as operator or programmer. Beyond that, of course, the offer can be deepened. Then it’s primarily a matter of topics such as application technology or research into new possible uses in industry. In recent years, we have also seen an increase in educational offerings in the area of service robotics. In general, robotics education advances further into the education systems. In the future, our target group will not only be the classic vocational training, but also secondary education at an earlier stage. Really an interesting development.
What was the most exciting project you’ve managed so far?
Frank Zimmermann: That’s hard to answer – we’re lucky to be in charge of multi-layered and exciting projects, such as learning factories or edu-bots concepts like the Education Robot System from OrangeApps. One exciting project was our work for a state-of-the-art robotics training center in Ireland. This is one of the largest vocational training facilities of its kind in Europe. KUKA supplied over 30 robots for the center, including collaborative robots and various robot cells. For example, for basic training, the so-called ready2_educate training cells for entry-level robotics, but also cells for special advanced training such as process technology.