Robot technology advances are improving automotive manufacturing

Technology developments such as collaborative robots and wearable robots are making automotive manufacturing more efficient and safer for the workforce.

By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) June 13, 2019

The automotive industry started using industrial robots in the 1960s. Since the 1980s, it has become nearly impossible to find an automotive manufacturer that hasn’t added some type of robotic solution to its manufacturing facilities. Thanks to technological advances like collaborative robots, drones, and exoskeletons, new opportunities are opening up for the use of innovative robotics in automotive manufacturing.

Collaborative robots expand their reach

Tasks like welding and painting have long been completed by robots. However, since the introduction of collaborative robots, they’re now moving onto the assembly line. Collaborative robots are able to stop safely or work with extremely low force,  posing very little risk to humans. This is increasing their use in innovative ways, like delivering materials to workers or assisting them with the lifting of heavy objects.

Automotive manufacturing facilities are very expensive to modify. As the collection of parts and materials used in vehicles increases, so does the effort required to build components like engines, transmissions, and battery packs. Collaborative robots let manufacturers accommodate additional components and  are still able to automate new tasks. Collaborative robots are able to help auto manufacturers get new vehicle designs to market faster with less cost to the facility.

Drones are being used to inspect material delivery pipes that run high above factory floors. Pipe inspection, not to mention pipe repair, is often dangerous work for humans. Now, drones are able to fly along the piping and spot cracks, corrosion, and other potential problems. Drones can capture images and information about the environment surrounding the issue, and relay that to the artificial intelligence and operators so they can identify what work needs to be done. This process lessens the amount of time that humans are in dangerous environments and helps them be more prepared for the necessary work.

Exoskeletons, or wearable robots, are also being added to the production line for repetitive tasks. In automotive manufacturing, workers often need to perform certain tasks repeatedly within a minute or less. Exoskeletons can support the body and distribute the load of weighty items, protecting the worker from physical stress and injury.

Predictive maintenance saves capital

Shared industrial robot performance data allows the creation of more efficient maintenance schedules. Sensor input, machine learning, and data connections let automotive manufacturing facilities create predictive maintenance task scheduling. Instead of replacing parts periodically by following a maintenance calendar, machines and operators interpret real-time data and only take down systems when necessary. Auto manufacturers can also maintain an inventory of less spare parts for emergency failures, saving capital for more productive activities.

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Automotive manufacturing continues to benefit from innovative robotics that enhance production in ways that keep them competitive.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online Blog. Robotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner.

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