CoboTank - Development and testing of collaborative and automated robotic systems to support the loading process of tankers

The progressive automation of inland waterway transport is only effective if it is considered holistically. The importance of liquid cargo handling in German inland ports is often neglected. Current tanker loading processes are sometimes characterized by manual, physically strenuous and error-prone work. This project addresses the great need for future-proof, automated solutions in the field of liquid cargo handling.

In a first work stream, the project realizes a partial automation using a collaborative robot system, a so-called cobot, to support the loading process of tankers. Partial automation using a cobot promises an acceleration of processes, increased process reliability, the best possible occupational safety and a reduction in the physical and psychological burden on the operator. In addition to the cobot, a robotic arm is being developed in a second work stream to realize a fully automated refueling process.

The project aims to achieve the described objectives by means of a dual research strategy. To this end, an iterative approach is envisaged in accordance with VDI 2206, involving the use of simulations and scaled test systems. In the development of the partially automated cobot, a scaled test system will first be set up and tested at the Test Center for Innovative Port and Handling Technologies (HaFoLa). In a later phase, the optimized system will be built on a real scale and tested at the tank section of the European Safety Center Duisburg e. V. at the Schiffer-Berufskolleg RHEIN (ESD) in Duisburg. An interdisciplinary approach involving engineers, psychologists and business economists will equally ensure the effectiveness and acceptance of the solutions.

In this project, the Chair of Mechatronics is involved, among other things, in the methodical conceptualization of the various mechatronic systems and will use simulations to implement the design of the drives, the sensor technology and the control of the overall system. The overall software development and development of the Human-Machine-Interface (HMI) are further core tasks of the chair. 

Project duration:

  • July 2022 – June 2025

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This project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport under grant number 19H2204 (CoboTank).