Car manufacturers are now more dependent on robot usage as compared to the past and this is with good reason. Robots are not uncommon in the manufacturing of automobiles. As a matter of fact, the automobile industry is amongst the most automated industries globally. General Motors was the first to incorporate robotics in the manufacturing of their cars back in ’61.
After that, the remit of using robots grew at a surprisingly alarming rate. Nowadays, automotive robots are not only being used to paint and weld. They also create a smooth collaboration between AI and humans.
Thanks to these robots, human workers can now accomplish more strenuous, labor-intensive, and complex tasks. Humans are also able to work with flexibility and increased precision, thus lowering automation risks.
Collaborative Robots (COBOTS)
Cobots are now a fundamental part of automotive engineering. The term ‘collaborative’ is used to describe robots that have the ability to function alongside humans safely. This is possible because of the sensors cobots have. These sensors enable the robots to sense human contact and react to it and monitor human presence in that factory.
Whenever a human comes close to these robots working, the robots will spontaneously shut down. Consequently, these robots can be used safely as human assistants and work on the same assembly line providing efficient mechanization to mundane everyday jobs. The speed, force, and strength of cobots can be calibrated to prevent injury.
Moreover, they do not need lots of programming because they can learn from simulation. They also don’t need contact supervision from technicians. They are also more minor as compared to hulking robots that were there back in the day.
Uses of Automotive Robots
Automotive robots can take on many different jobs from pick & place, material handling, to palletizing. Robots are specifically designed to take up monotonous tasks while still maintaining the same quality standard. Some of the ways robots are used in the automated industry include:
- Assembling: They are used to attach windshield wipers and door handles. They thus free humans giving them more time to focus on tasks that require higher levels of attention.
- Machine tending: Collaborative robots are most suited for machine tending. This is a sometimes dangerous, dirty, and dull affair, making it suitable for cobots.
- Polishing and material removal: It involves cleaning automotive parts by trimming off metal. It also involves polishing mods to give off a smooth finish.
- Quality inspection: Cobots guarantee that the finished product maintains the exact, high-level quality requirement. When robots are equipped with special software, you will be able to automate your quality inspection job.
Like many other automotive manufacturing tasks, the above tasks are repetitive and can even be dangerous at times. This makes them ideal for robotics, even in material removal jobs like drilling, routing, sanding, milling, deburring, and grinding.
When a robot can “see” whatever it is doing using its “eyes’, it means it can handle greater variance levels via 3D or 2D perception. This is a significant advancement that is driven by Open Source Computer Vision (OpenCV) programming functions.
This function comes with software libraries for the development of computer vision via the real-time processing of images. Hardware coupled with software algorithm units makes robots smarter in a more adaptive way. These robots give instant feedback by meting out visual data. This visual data allows robots to execute appropriate calibration and offsetting.
Now, since the robot is able to tell what is supposed to go where, the installation of car parts like door panels, fenders, and windshields is done with high-level precision.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
This refers to self-guided vehicles. These vehicles are designed for towing heavy materials and loads around a large building. Currently, these wheeled carriers are used in many different production facilities because of their forklift-size, operator-free capabilities.
Their movement around industrial assembly facilities and plants is navigated by software with lasers or magnetic strips assistance. They also use 3D Map tools to carry goods over a short-medium distance. For example, moving major components such as seats and fascias or cars through assembly lines. AGVs enable workflow process optimization and also helps to enhance workplace safety.
Automotive robots in welding have been used for a long time. It was traditionally used for arc and spot welding. There’s a smarter six-axis robot that is able to perform different welding techniques. These various techniques range from comprehensive bodyworks solutions to friction to laser.
Cobots share a workplace with humans and also, in tandem, work with other robots in a massive assembly line. Robotic handlers and welders need to collaborate to be able to keep an assembly line flowing. This automates manufacturing facilities and streamlines operations and, at the same time, improves quality.
Even though robotic arms do most automotive operations, assembly tasks are still being handled manually. This reduces fatigue on the part of humans because exoskeletons are primarily used to perform repetitive tasks.
Companies like General Motors and NASA have robotic gloves which add grip and strength to a human hand. A motorized delivery system drives this glove. Humans wear the glove at the back of their, and it will increase their grip. The more a human grips, the more assistance the glove gives. It does so by stimulating your tendons, muscles, and nerves via its actuators and sensors. This, in turn, decreases fatigue and upsurges manual dexterity.
Robotics was first seen as being life-threatening and intimidating. They are now adroit as they work collaboratively with humans. We are now living in a world where driverless cars are in the works. This means that carmakers need to use more innovative and automated production lines. Working alongside AI, automotive robots might prove even to be more cost-effective, productive, and efficient. All this is to meet the end-users demands ad needs.
So, what does the future hold?
In the future, the ever-competitive automotive industry will witness a revolutionary archetype shift as it ushers in a new and exciting era for automated vehicles.