The automotive industry is one of the very first industries to have implemented robots in manufacturing lines to cope with the ever-increasing production and quality demands. In fact, robots have been used in the industry as early as 1961 by General Motors.
Since then, robots have been under constant development until 1970, where the creation of integrated circuit sparked automation. Automation enables robots to operate on their own with limited to no guidance.
The benefits of using robots in manufacturing processes are quite clear – robots have high levels of accuracy, able to perform tasks at high rates, and can be operated without human presence to say the least.
However, what are the various applications of robots in the automotive industry? Are they only used for carrying large items? Or are they also designed to perform complex tasks? Let’s find out!
Picture source: blog.robotiq.com
Assembly operations are arguably the most common application of robots within the automotive industry. Mundane and repetitive tasks such as screw driving, component installation such as windshields, and wheel mounting are some of the examples.
Robots are widely used in assembly procedures due to its high production rates, allowing large quantities of materials and items to be processed. Besides that, robots also have very high accuracy levels, resulting in minimal to zero errors.
2. Collaborative operations
The advent of sensors and cameras led to the development of Collaborative robots. Also known as “Cobot”, these robots are designed to physically interact and work collaboratively with humans in a shared workspace. Besides interacting with humans, collaborative robots are also designed with the capability to work together with other robots in enormous assembly lines.
This type of robots is usually utilised when a particular process involves a secondary operation that needs to be executed with the presence of a human. One of the most common application include Pick and Place – the process of picking up a product and placing it in another area of the manufacturing line to continue operations. This relieves workers from the repetitive and mundane task of transferring materials.
For safety purposes, these robots are equipped with “Safety Monitored Stop” system that allows the robots to halt its operations when it detects human presence within a predetermined safe zone.
The welding process is arguably one of the very first tasks that was accomplished by a robot. This is due to their high payload (ability to carry materials) and long reach. Robots designed to operate in welding processes such as Robotic MIG (Metal Inert Gas) has the capability to position the welding torch in the same orientation on every cycle. Its high repeatability ensures every fabrication is welded to the same high standard.
4. Part transfer and Machine tending
Transferring materials and parts to a required location may sound like a mundane task but it isn’t safe as the process involves hazardous materials, tools, and situations. Handling molten metal is dangerous as it is extremely high in temperature while CNC machines are heavy, thus requiring a lot of manpower.
Therefore, robots are applied to take over these dangerous tasks. When completed consistently with little to zero downtime, robots can also determine shorter cycle times while maintaining high accuracy, thus increasing product output with high end-quality.
The painting process in vehicle production is highly toxic due to the chemicals present in the paint. It is also very time consuming and professional painters these days are becoming rare.
To overcome this issue, manufacturers deploy robots as they have high accuracy and consistency levels while they are also equipped to cover large areas of painting space.
Certain advanced robots allow them to be programmed with a path to enable higher precision levels and reduce material wastage.
5. In-house logistics
Robots such as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are extensively used to satisfy the logistics need of manufacturing factories. This involves stock and inventory management, waste management, work-in-process movement, and material transfer.
AGVs utilise radio waves, lasers, cameras, or sensors to navigate along a predetermined path without human intervention. AGVs are meant to perform repeatable tasks in a fast and accurate manner, therefore eliminating potential human error and downtime.
This leads to an increased output of products. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for manufacturers to absorb higher demands, resulting in higher profitability.
Since AGVs are implemented to perform repeatable tasks that were previously conducted by human workers, they can now concentrate on other value-added tasks.
Robots are not designed to reduce job opportunities. In fact, they upgrade the quality of existing jobs to become better, providing better job avenues for existing workers. New jobs such as robot operators, programmers, and robot engineers for monitoring and supervision have emerged, allowing existing talent pools to develop new skill sets in technology, engineering, and robotics. All it takes is a little bit of reskilling and training.