From the beginning of the industrial revolution which started in the 18th century, automation started to improve the industrial production. Automation was able to automate industries with the help of systems integrated with central computers and later automation robots.
The first industrial robots were hydraulic ones. In 1968, the famous electric robot named “Vicram” was introduced.
During 1950-1960, some engineers realized that robotics can be a means of industrial development. In 1961, the US company General Motors installed robotic arms to assist its assembly lines. In 1969, Stanford engineers created a Stanford robotic arm that could move and assemble parts in a continuously repeating pattern.
The first programming language for robots was written at that time which was done by Victor David Scheinman who was the inventor of “Vicarm”.
Different Robotic Applications in the Automotive Industry
Currently, there are widespread applications of industrial robots in the automation of industries. Among different industries who make use of such robots, automotive industries have become one of the major users of this technology. Since the implementation of the first robot in 1960, a lot of things have been changed. Let us briefly take a look at some of the latest robotic applications in automotive industry.
Robotic vision technology
In 2013 during the production of Ford Escape, the company introduced a robotic arm with eyes. A laser light and camera were both placed on the arm of the robot and arm was capable of knowing where to place the parts on the car body. By giving proper instructions, windshields, the fender and door panels could be placed accurately and with a high speed.
Collaborative robots or “cobots” are robots that have been designed to help human beings for a specific action. These robots are not replacements for the human body, but they provide assistance to humans to enhance their capabilities and facilitate their actions. One of the most advanced collaboration robots is Human-Robot Collaboration or HRC. They are used in assembly lines.
In 2011, ABB provided the giant Chinese company Great Wall Motors’ production line in its Tianjin plant with a complete automated welding line composed of collaborative robots. This line is the most proactive line ever made. When 27 ABB work at 30 different stations, collaboration happens between handling robot and welding robot. The ABB IRB 7600 are deployed to place the panel at the right location while ABB IRB 6640 are used to perform the welding operation.
Although industrial robots are extensively involved in a production line, human robots also have to be deployed for the final completion of a car. While manufacturing operations are done by industrial robots, assembling task are still handmade. In order to reduce the weight applied to the human arm, the company introduces a bionic hand called X-Ar arm or the robotic arms that anyone can wear.
In order to difficult to find high qualified painters considering the size of the car, it is easy to use a robot for this application. One advantage of using painting robot is the reduction of waste material. These robots are equipped with a flowmeter the exact same amount of paint is distributed on each part.
Current technologies and accuracy of current models
The precision of robots in designs mainly depends on their rigidity and range during their work. In the laser beam welding, movements’ accuracy is of utmost importance. It requires a very precise robotic movement with regard to the narrow weld field.
Once such precise robot is FANUC industrial robot which is suitable for applications which require constant force such as painting, welding methods, adhesive joining and presswork finishing.
Fig 4: Fanuc Industrial Robot
The robotic arm terminated with a compact wrist allows the action in a narrow space and during the welding work. In order to ensure a reasonable accuracy, each workspace with the robot is limited. Also, offline software is applied to the robot.
The accuracy of an industrial positioning robotic system plays an important role in the selection of the welding method, material, and robotic selection.
Based on various experiments, it has been proved that the distance from the robotic arm to the head influences the welding speed and final deviation of the trajectory speed.
The manufacture of the industrial robot declare repeatability but they will not define the accuracy of the robot along the predefined path. From different experiment, it has been proved that for the requirement on predefined target accuracy, it should take to consider the position of the trajectory within the robot’s reach as well as the speed of the movement.
Almost all manufacturers have the same issue regarding the movement accuracy. So another way to improve the accuracy is the calibration. This method is time and money consuming and in case of robot collision occur it has to repeat it. So calibrated robot has not been usually used in production.
Robotic technology has brought a lot of changes in automating industries. The main change in the last few decades has been the overall scale in which robots are used. By offering precise repeatability, the automation improves the quality of the production. The end result of a robotic process in automation industry is the quality that is repeated exactly in each product. For that, currently many Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines make use of computer software to load and unload the raw materials.
While a high budget is needed in order to make the robotic technology out to reach some manufactures for their applications, the robotic industry is making a breakthrough using the democratization of technology.
For the next 10 years, the industrial robotics market is expected to grow by 195%. However, the deployment of robotic technology in industries has not only reduced the production cost, it has caused an increase in the production quality.