Manufacturing AUTOMATION

KUKA launches U.S. research centre to advance innovation

November 2, 2009
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

While many systems integrators are cutting back on research in the current global recession, KUKA North America is investing in growth by opening the KUKA Development Center (KDC) at its headquarters in Sterling Heights, near Detroit.

Specializing in joining technologies like laser welding, the KDC becomes the second dedicated research center within the KUKA Systems Group, along with the KUKA TechCenter located at global headquarters in Augsburg. The KDC’s mission includes adapting KUKA-branded solutions and new technologies for use by the company’s North American automotive, energy, aerospace and logistics markets as well as entirely new markets. Other services include process development, training and safety certification.

"The fact we launched the KUKA Development Center in a difficult economic environment shows how serious we about supporting our customers with a steady stream of innovation while growing and diversifying our business," says Larry Drake, president and CEO of KUKA Systems North America.

The centre opened with a full compliment of joining technologies including the latest generation of lasers & robotics and draws on the extensive knowledge and expertise of the work force at KUKA facilities in the Detroit area, including the over 250 technical employees. A great deal of the KDC’s work will be related to the company’s core automotive business, but it also supports the energy, aerospace and logistics divisions, including the dedicated R&D activities and cells operated within each. Already, it has helped adapt existing KUKA technology for use by two North American photovoltaic panel makers.


The KDC is drawing on KUKA’s European experience with laser welding of steel and its own expertise in aluminum welding and joining different types of metal. Vendors of lasers and robot end effectors are partnering with the KDC to develop new automation solutions, not only for automakers but other industries, says Peter Busuttil, director of technology for KUKA North America and head of the KDC.

Though focused on North American customers, the KDC expects to contribute to the company’s worldwide knowledge base and products. “We cross-pollinate technologies with our colleagues in Germany,” he says. “Whatever we develop here, we will apply overseas as well.”

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