Scot­land Gales Pow­ered the Equiv­a­lent of the Day’s Elec­tric­ity Needs!

Industry Leaders - - Content Features -

Col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots or co-bots for short are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing pop­u­lar for in­dus­try ap­pli­ca­tions. They have the po­ten­tial to make life much eas­ier for hu­mans on a pro­duc­tion line, like pick and place, in­jec­tion mold­ing and other jobs that are con­sid­ered less than de­sir­able for hu­mans. How­ever, most ro­bots on pro­duc­tion lines do not have the abil­ity to stop or sub­tly ad­just their mo­tion when some­one gets in the way and re­quires a cor­doned off space to op­er­ate in or­der to en­sure the safety of its hu­man coun­ter­parts. Well,

Ford Mo­tor Com­pany thinks it’s found a way around this prob­lem. The com­pany is now us­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots at its plant in Cologne, Ger­many to help assem­bly-line staff fit shock ab­sorbers to Fi­esta cars as part of a trial in the com­pany’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what Ford calls In­dus­try 4.0, the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion em­brac­ing au­to­ma­tion, data ex­change and

man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nolo­gies.

Ford’s new assem­bly line ro­bot pro­gram was de­vel­oped over the course of two years with KUKA Roboter Gmbh, a Ger­man ro­bot­ics com­pany with the in­ten­tion of as­sist­ing hu­man line work­ers. It’s a job re­quir­ing unerring ac­cu­racy, strength and dex­ter­ity, and the co-bots en­sure ideal fit and re­lieve work­ers from hav­ing to ac­cess hardto-reach places. Ac­cord­ing to Ford, it is among the first au­tomak­ers to de­velop the trial with a se­ries of cobots and hu­mans work­ing to­gether on the assem­bly line. Ve­hi­cle Op­er­a­tion Di­rec­tor Karl An­ton says Ford of Europe pro­cured feed­back from more than 1,000 pro­duc­tion-line work­ers in its Cologne, Ger­many fa­cil­ity to iden­tify tasks they be­lieve ro­bots that come equipped with a hu­man-like hand could be best suited to.

Tasks that could be au­to­mated in the fu­ture in­clude in­te­rior assem­bly, ex­pect­ing ro­bots have ac­cess to ex­tremely dex­ter­ous end-ef­fec­tors and are op­ti­mally mounted. The 3.3 ft. (1m) tall ro­bots from KUKA op­er­ate side-by-side with hu­mans in strate­gi­cally placed mounts at two work sta­tions. Rather than ma­nip­u­lat­ing a heavy shock ab­sorber and in­stal­la­tion tool, the work­ers use the ro­bot to lift and au­to­mat­i­cally po­si­tion shock ab­sorbers into the ve­hi­cle’s wheel arch, be­fore push­ing a but­ton to com­plete in­stal­la­tion. To en­sure safety of the work­ers, the ro­bots uti­lize high-tech sen­sors to im­me­di­ately stop if they de­tect an ob­struc­tion, like a hu­man body, in their path. They can even high­five each other after the com­ple­tion of the job. In ad­di­tion to heavy lift­ing, the au­tomaker says it is look­ing at fur­ther use of ro­bots pro­grammed to per­form tasks rang­ing from mak­ing cof­fee to shak­ing hands as well as other del­i­cate tasks. Ac­cord­ing to Ford, the ro­bots can re­sult in faster, safer and top qual­ity ve­hi­cle assem­bly, as well as mak­ing the process eas­ier for work­ers in the assem­bly line. While the co-bots are only in use at the Cologne fac­tory cur­rently, they might as well end up in other lo­ca­tions in the near fu­ture. The com­pany is also look­ing at how they could be en­forced at North Amer­i­can fac­to­ries, ac­cord­ing to Kelli Felker, Ford’s man­u­fac­tur­ing and la­bor com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager.

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