Hitachi Robots in the past and present

As one of the pioneers in the robotics research, Hitachi has played an important role in developing useful technologies, and has contributed to the advancement of our society through their applications. The earliest achievement in Hitachi's history in robotics was the nation's first computer-controlled intelligent robot launched in 1970 and was demonstrated at Hitachi Technology Fair held in National Museum of Science, Tokyo. Since then, Hitachi has been continuing to release a variety of epoch-making robot technologies, and these have also been applied to the wide variety of Hitachi products. What follows is some significant research topics in robotics challenged by Hitachi until recently.

Note: By placing the cursor on some photos, an underlaid photo will appear.

1970  Intelligent robot system, HIVIP Mk.1
Nation's first integrated intelligent robot that carried out various assembly tasks, in response to the macroscopic instruction shown by drawings. Vision system looked at an assembly drawing as well as blocks on a table, and a computer found the way to move an articulated hand for assembling these blocks to the form instructed by the drawing. Vision and decision-making functions were two key technologies in this development.
1972  Inspection machine for printed circuit boards
World's first industrial application of machine vision technology, applied to the inspection of PCBs for Hitachi TVs. The PCB patterns were expanded and contracted in real-time in synchronizing with the inputting image, and flaws and other abnormalities were extracted. This machine formed the basis of "morphological image processing", and was regarded as one of the origins of the visual inspection machines.
1973  Automatic bolting robot

Nation's first intelligent industrial robot with both visual and tactile sensors, developed for concrete pile and pole industry. This robot tightened or loosened the bolts on a flange of a moving mold, by distinguishing the bolts from ribs and tires. It received IR-100 Award in 1974 and won Outstanding Development Award of SME's half century in 1982.

1973  Fully-automatic transistor assembly system, AWE

World's first fully-automatic transistor assembly system based on pattern recognition technology. Electrode positions of tiny transistors with the size of 0.4-0.6 mm square were recognized by a TV camera, and gold wires were connected there automatically. 50 machines were controlled in group by a single computer. This technology was later applied extensively to IC and LSI assembly.

1975  Arc welding robot, Mr. AROS
Nation's first arc-welding robot, chosen as one of the 10 distinguished new products in 1975 by Nikkan Kogyo Newspaper. This was an orthogonal-type, six-axes robot driven electro-hydraulically, and its functions were almost equal to those of the present industrial robots. One prominent feature of this robot at that time was the automatic correction of torch route by the use of remote magnetic sensors.
1975  Precise insertion robot, HI-T-HAND Expert 2
A precision robot for automating peg-in-hole tasks with the clearance of the order of 10 micrometers. The insertion was one important task in assembly, and required human skills. A flexible wrist mechanism and a force controlling mechanism made it possible to automatically assemble the compressors and motor stators having the diameter of some 10 millimeters and the clearance of 10 micrometers.
1982  Self-travelling manipulator
A unique 5-legged mobile robot with a 6-DOF master-slave manipulator equipped on it. By extending and contracting its legs, the robot coped with the stairs, slopes, and other uneven floors. Slave manipulator performed useful tasks by being carried to the place where such tasks are required.
1983  Intelligent mobile robot

Crawler-type autonomous intelligent mobile robot developed in 1983 and demonstrated in 1984 at Hitachi Technology Fair. This robot featured the ability to travel through gaps and stairs, by changing the shape of its unique crawler mechanism in response to the outside situation recognized by vision sensors. Its 6-DOF manipulator and its force sensing and controlling mechanisms made it possible to successfully execute autonomous tasks, such as door opening by turning doorknobs.

1984  Wall travelling robot

Nation's first wall walking robot developed for the remote inspection of welding portion on a large-scale spherical gas holder. This robot consisted of outer and inner circular frames, each having 8 vacuum suction cups. Travelling was executed by the combination of its straight-forward motion and turning motion, and inspection was done by an X and Y scanning motion of ultrasonic sensor probe equipped at the bottom center of the robot body.

1984  Inspection machine for semiconductor wafers
Visual inspection machine for ICs and LSIs. Reference images were generated in real-time from design patterns in order to compare with continuously inputting images. Since this machine was put on market, this design pattern referring method became one of the industry standard. The inspection accuracy of advanced memories and other LSIs was dramatically improved, thus contributed to win a reputation of Japan's semiconductor products for their reliability.
1985  Cleaning robot, HCR-00

In-house vacuum cleaning robot with an ultrasonic radar and a gyroscope for its position detection. Thorough cleaning of rooms was possible by creating obstacle map and route map. Development started in 1983 and a prototype was exhibited at German trade exhibition "Domotechnica", the world's largest exhibition for domestic appliances at that time.

1985  Biped robot, WHL-11

A biped robot developed by the cooperation between Waseda University and Hitachi, and demonstrated at World Exposition 85 in Tsukuba. WHL stands for Waseda-Hitachi Legs, and was the first biped robot that industry was engaged in. This was an autonomous biped robot with the height of 1.4 meters, the leg length of 0.9 meters, and the weight of 120 kg. Each leg was with 6 DOF, and all 12 DOF motions were controlled electro-hydraulically. A stable quasi-dynamic walking was realized, but speed was very slow, 10 seconds for one stride. However, it travelled more than 60 kilometers in total during the term of Expo 85, without any technical problems or accidents.

1986  Pipe inspection robot
An inspection robot for inner surfaces of pipes. A plural number of spherical bodies were connected each other with flexible couplings, to smoothly travel even inside of a curved pipe. Each spherical body was for motion driving, for motion guiding, or for sensing, and these were purposely combined for a variety of inspection tasks.
1990  4-legged walking robot

A prototype robot for the use in nuclear power plant, developed as a part of MITI's national project (1983-1990) on robots for hazardous environment. The leg was 0.9 meters long and the weight was 300 kg. There were 24 DOF in total, and 12 out of them were controlled hydraulically. The robot could walk over gaps and stairs in a static mode, with a maximum speed of 2.5 km/h .

1990  4-legged walking robot
A total system developed by MITI's national project (1983-1990) on robots for hazardous environment. Hitachi took charge of developing its leg mechanisms. The size of this robot was 1270 mm in length, 715 mm in width, and 1880 mm in height, and the weight was 700 kg. Four legs were driven electrically and were able to go up and down the stairs, pass over the obstacles, and travel through the doors by turning doorknobs.
1991  Re-configurable type two-arm manipulator
A manipulator with two articulated mechanical arms. Each joint of the arms were exchangeable, and by the re-configuration of the number of joints and their combination, it was possible to adapt to various task conditions in order to avoid obstacles, such as the pipes in a complex power plant. Also, the automatic exchange of hand mechanisms made it possible to easily adapt to the required tasks.
1991  Small-scale surveillance robot

Surveillance robot for the area where the human can hardly enter, such as the inside of pressure vessels of nuclear power plants in operation. Zooming type TV camera, infrared TV camera, microphones, and other various sensors were equipped purposely. The size was rather small and was possible to go through a narrow passage.

1992  Magnetic crawler type inspection robot

Ultrasonic inspection robot for wall surfaces. The robot climbed up and down the walls of pressure vessels of nuclear power plants by using magnetic forces. A load-sharing type magnetic crawler mechanism was used for distributing the weight of the robot to each magnet, thus increasing total contacting forces. The features were its small-scaled size and high speed capability, thus enabling wide applications.

1995  Brain surgery assistance system, HUMAN
Assistance system for brain surgery to minimize the load to patients. An imaging fiberscope and three manipulators were set up inside of a pipe having outer diameter of 10 mm. Each manipulator was with 3 DOF and its positioning accuracy at its tip was 20 micrometers. This system was successfully put into use in the practical brain surgery in August 2002, which was the world's first clinical application of this sort of system.
1997  MFD Robot arm

Robot arm for preliminary flight test, launched by a space shuttle in 1997. The arm was 1.5 meters long with 6 DOF. During two-week experiments, an astronaut successfully demonstrated various tasks as door opening and equipment exchange in the space. Remote control from the earth control station was also performed. As a result, the arm was evaluated as one of the world's first dexterous robot arm for space use. This arm is intended to be used in the Japanese experiment module "Hope" of the international space station now being constructed.
(Photo by the courtesy of NASA/JAXA)

2001  Disaster prevention robot in nuclear facilities, SWAN

Disaster prevention robot in the case of nuclear accidents. The robot can quickly move to the point of accident and assist restoration tasks. This robot features:
・ Possible to pass through narrow passages, stairs, and
 gaps, by changing its crawler shape in response to
 various sensor information.
・ Increased operability by the use of a binocular type wide
 range TV camera as well as a small camera equipped
 at its tool position.
・ Adaptable to a variety of works such as door opening,
 valve closing, and sample collecting, by remotely
 changing its tools.

2001  Remote information gathering robots, RESQ
Information gathering robots in the case of accidents in nuclear facilities. The following three types, each with a different role, were developed.

・RESQ-A, for the first stage information gathering.
  Small-sized, handy robot for fast information gathering.
・RESQ-B, for detailed information gathering.
  Measurement of various data such as radioactivity,
  temperature, humidity, distances, wind direction, and
  wind velocity. Possible to climb up 40-degree stairs.

・RESQ-C, for sample gathering.
  Gathering of gaseous, liquid, and solid samples by using
  its two arms.

← Place the cursor to display the photo of RESQ-C.
2001  JEM child arm

A child robot arm for dexterous operation intended to be used for Japanese experiment module "Hope" together with its parent arm. The module is now being constructed as a part of international space station in orbit. The robot arm will be launched by a space shuttle in 2007. The expected life of the arm is more than 10 years, and will be the first dexterous precision arm for space use. The arm is 6 DOF type with the length of 1.9 meters and the weight of 200 kg.
(Photo by the courtesy of JAXA)

2002  2-belt type training machine for seniors, PW-21
Walking training machine for seniors, with two independently moving belts. Two operation modes are provided; one is a constant speed mode with adjustable velocity, another is a loaded mode where the speed varies depending on the kick force of trainee. This mode provides the adaptability to each trainee, and can be used particularly for the training to prevent falling down, by quickly stopping or starting one of the belts.
2002  Holding machine for laparoscope operation, Naviot

A machine to effectively assist a laparoscope operation. By this machine, a surgeon can hold the laparoscope and move its field of vision smoothly without releasing surgical instruments. The features of this machine are:
Flexible movement of the field of vision by surgeon himself.
Safety design by preventing unexpected laparoscope motion
 while in surgical operation.
Reducing stain deposition on laparoscope tip by the use of
 its zooming function.

2003  Electric walking assistant

Electric walking assistant machine for those whose leg power declined. When a user intends to walk by grasping a supporting handle, force sensors detects the intended direction of motion and controls the left and right motors independently. The machine is adaptable to the user's condition by adjusting its movability. By the use of electric up-and-down mechanism, it can assist standing up and sitting down from/to chairs ,beds, and toilet seats.

2003  Cleaning robot, HCR-03

Autonomous house cleaning robot announced in May, 2003. This is one of the world's smallest cleaner with 250 mm diameter, and is especially suited for Japanese housing. A movable vacuum head, automatic map generation, and spiral motion pattern make it possible to reach corners and sweep every dust effectively. A base station for both battery charge and trash damping is provided, and the robot autonomously docks to the station.

DOF: Degrees Of Freedom of motion
JAXA: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Successor of NASDA)
JEM: Japanese Experiment Module
MFD: Manipulator Flight Demonstration
MITI: Ministry of International Trade and Industry
NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA
PCB: Printed Circuit Board
SME: Society of Manufacturing Engineering, USA