The CoE’s research focus was on the methods and technologies needed in the development of intelligent mobile machines, either modern working machines or future advanced robots. All these machines and robots share a similar applications-independent basic structure that is designed around various subsystems. This structure incorporates the machine’s electronic and IT “intelligence”.
The systems at the centre of research are responsible for such machine functions as power generation, mobility, environmental sensing, navigation, communication with the operator and autonomous deduction. The CoE’s research interest covered all these systems and functions and also the modular structure of the machines. With the exception of materials, the research comprised all of the technologies necessary for machine development.
Intelligent mobile machines are an area of strong growth in technology industry. This is reflected in the evolution of modern working machines as well as in the revolutionary development of next-generation robot technology. The latter is set to profoundly change people’s everyday life over the next few decades, and it is also expected to open up whole new vistas for industrial product development. Finland has a highly advanced technology industry in this field, and exports will certainly benefit from these recent advances.
The CoE was a globally significant unit engaged in a diverse range of activities with a potential to make an important contribution to new innovative breakthroughs and to maintaining industry competitiveness.
The aim of the research conducted at the CoE was to create and test methods and technologies that can enhance the efficiency of machine subsystems, their context-adaptive operation and their overall autonomy.
The specific research problems addressed ranged from new component technologies to key questions of systems-level development. Examples of the former include new types of hydraulic actuators. The latter include methods with which robot-like machines can scout around their work area and then autonomously or semi-autonomously complete operator-assigned tasks within that area. Closely related to this is the function of learning, which is an integral part of artificial machine intelligence.
Mobility and the control of mobility systems is another important part of mobile machines. Computer control provides one unconventional route to mobility; the deployment of legs instead of wheels for mobility offers just one example. Another major research focus was new energy solutions, such as electrically powered systems and applications of fuel cell technology.
The work done at the CoE is best described as applied basic research, with close practical ties. For this reason, the evolving knowledge and innovations was easy to transfer into practice in industry applications.
The CoE was headed by Professor Aarne Halme from Helsinki University of Technology (HUT). He is a well-known and highly respected expert in this field. The HUT Automation Technology Laboratory and the Tampere University of Technology Institute of Hydraulics and Automation worked seamlessly together. The CoE had two professors, eleven senior researchers and 30 doctoral students or researchers.