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Kuka is a major robotics supplier to the auto industry (Photo: Kuka)

Daimler plans to deploy robots originally designed for use in outer space to help build cars on earth.

The German premium car maker said it had signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Kuka, a large southern-German maker of industrial robots, to jointly develop lightweight robots to be integrated into the manufacturing process.

Daimler's head of manufacturing, Wolfgang Bernhard, said the project could revolutionize manufacturing technology. "We see its enormous potential to further improve flexibility and efficiency of our manufacturing operations," he said in a press release.

The companies are jointly conducting field tests to see whether humans and robots can cooperate safely in areas such as assembly and in-vehicle screw application.

The robots that will be used have sensitive motorized grippers that handle objects gently and can perform difficult tasks in outer space. In a car plant, the lightweight robots would function as a kind of "third hand" for the regular workers. The robots can be positioned and set up to optimally suppor workers. They could, for example, take over and perform tiring tasks such as the handling of overhead items