Human-Robot Collaboration To Drive The Automotive Industry (Part II)

  • Saturday, 17 September 2016 14:18
 Having cobots perform dangerous or unsafe tasks can minimise potential safety hazards from occurring on the factory floo Having cobots perform dangerous or unsafe tasks can minimise potential safety hazards from occurring on the factory floo Universal Robots

Teamwork between human and machine is key in enabling manufacturers to ride on the growth of the automotive industry. By Shermine Gotfredsen, general manager, APAC, Universal Robots

Lear Corporation, a German automotive supplier, had limited working space on the production floor and required increased productivity to meet demands. They needed a small, mobile robot that was flexible and able to work alongside its employees in a cohesive environment.

Faced with this situation, the automotive supplier deployed a collaborative robot, or co-bot, into their production process. Due to the small size of the co-bot, Lear Corporation did not have to make any expansion to the production area. The co-bot was easily installed and programmed to screw together automot ive seat and rest frames with an end-of-arm screwdriver. If screws are missing on a seat , the robot picks this product out and issues a warning signal for employees to rectify the issue. It currently completes about 8,500 drilling actions every day, increasing both production speed and product reliability.

Human-Robot Collaboration
Co-bots are an innovative type of industrial robots, designed to work collaboratively with humans. They are flexible, lightweight and compact, making them suitable to be easily deployed into existing production layouts. In a manufacturing environment, cobots function as co-workers or assistants, supporting employees in performing daily tasks on the factory floor.

As co-bots come with intuitive user interfaces, they can easily be programmed by any employee to handle various tasks in the factory. The employees can also deploy and redeploy the co-bots into any production stages required, ensuring that needs are met to reduce any possible downtime or error. Co-bots are also useful in environments that are uncomfor table or too risky for humans. The automotive plant, with its heavy machine parts and metal components, can pose health hazards for workers who have to be exposed to the condition for too long. Having co-bots to perform those tasks instead of humans will minimise any potential safety hazards.

Additionally, co-bots comply with the safety standards for industrial robots, International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) 10218 and new technical specification for co-bots, ISO/TS 15066. The new specification was recently developed with a set of safety requirements to ensure that all co-bots are subject to risk assessment tests to work in tandem with employees.

With the workers’ time freed up, they can take on other responsibilities that require creativity and strategic thinking. This way, they will be able to learn new things in the workplace and be more motivated to journey up the career ladder. As for the employers, having more highly skilled employees means increased productivity levels, which will significantly contribute to business growth.

Changing Face Of Manufacturing
The sustained development of the automotive industry, ever-changing consumer preferences and technological advancements offer both challenges and opportunities for manufacturers. In order for companies to gain a real competitive advantage and long-term sustainability for their business, it is critical to embrace new technology that is changing the face of manufacturing.

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), global demand for industrial robots is forecast to accelerate and pass the two million mark by the end of 2017, with the highest demand coming from the automotive industry. This signifies the importance of automation in current and future production processes. In the next few years, we will see more companies progressing towards humanrobot collaboration, creating environments where workers and robots work hand-in-hand to achieve greater quality and precision for their products and customers.

 

APMEN Sept 2016, Machine Tools

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