Research and Development in Robotic Systems

Autonomous, Flexible Robot for Welding Large Steel Structures (NOMAD)

© Fraunhofer IFF

The overall objective of the NOMAD project was the development of an autonomous, flexible robotic welding system for large steel structure. The range of structures such a system can produce covers volumes of up to several cubic meters, weights of up to approximately 5 tons and material thicknesses of 3 to 50 mm. At present, such steel structures are either welded manually or in specially adapted robotic welding systems. Drawbacks of manual production are high costs, low output rate and varying quality.


The autonomous, flexible robotic welding system incorporates the following innovative aspects:

  • Production simulation to automatically plan processes and monitor systems in real-time,
  • Navigation system for an autonomous robot transport vehicle (RTV) to position the robot arm with greater precision,
  • Design and construction of a rugged industrial RTV with the precision and stability needed for welding jobs,
  • Specially developed welding equipment, welding procedures and sensor systems, which enable welding in all positions with a degree of control and precision unattainable with present systems.

Fraunhofer IFF Development Work

  • Integration of the autonomous robot systemSoftware design for an autonomous robotic system
  • Automatic path generation
  • Simulation and visualization of navigation
  • Development of sensor-guided high-level navigation
  • Development of an image processing system to automatically detect the position and orientation of a workpiece
  • Development of an image processing system to automatically detect the position and orientation of the autonomous robot

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer IFF (Germany): Camera system and RTV navigation
  • Caterpillar Belgium S.A (Belgium): End use and coordination
  • Delfoi OY (Finland): Simulation system
  • Robosoft SA (France): RTV construction
  • TWI LTD (Great Britain): Welding technologies research
  • Reis Robotics (Germany): Robot
  • ESAB AB (Sweden): Welding process consumables
  • Nusteel Structures LTD (Great Britain): End use

NOMAD is the first European project to develop manufacturing service robots.

EC: Project: G1RD-2000-00461