As technology advances, automation continues to improve manufacturing processes in the automotive industry. We’re seeing advantages including improved quality, increased capacity, lower production costs and more.
Since the 1980s, robotics in automotive manufacturing has continued to change the definition of vehicle production. Quality control is now unparalleled as immediate data collection is possible through the Internet of Things (IoT). This means that automated reports can be sent instantly through a network while actively reading the output of certain procedures to reduce and detect variation in the product. By removing the chance of human error, we are left with more consistent products. This leads to less waste, reduced warranty costs and greater customer satisfaction.
The Advantages of Robotics
Robots can greatly increase manufacturing capacity. Automated material handling systems use data to run a leaner warehouse and connect different departments to make more accurate deadlines, predict change, and speed up processes like moving material from storage to site. Additionally, robots don’t need lunch breaks and don’t experience fatigue, so cycle times are predictable and consistent. This allows for an increased production efficiency of 30 percent, while simultaneously reducing production costs. The additional output and speed benefit the manufacturer during peak production times and allows them to become more competitive in the market.
Repetitive, hazardous, and mundane tasks are better left to automated systems. Through the use of both dedicated and collaborative robotics, workplace safety will be increased when workers are performing skilled and meaningful work while robots handle the heat, fumes, and noise levels that are inherently harmful to humans.
Robotics in automotive manufacturing also promotes both environmental sustainability and practical scalability. In this case, these two concepts work hand-in-hand. As product lines improve, change, and become discontinued, robots can often be easily redeployed to suit the new task at little cost. The agility and flexibility of the automated system allow businesses to respond quickly to increased or decreased market demands. As opposed to machines that are only suited to one task, these robots stay relevant for longer without becoming obsolete. This increases the return on investment for the manufacturer and curtails the waste and losses involved in replacing a robot or designing a new system.
The following robots are the major common types of industrial robots used in automotive manufacturing:
One of the most common types of industrial robots is the articulated robot, closely resembling a human arm. The base twists, allowing for freedom of movement while the arm consists of multiple joints. Typically automotive robots consist of 4-6 joints, but we can see anywhere from 2-10. Articulated robots have a small footprint, yet a large wingspan maintaining a tidy factory floor plan. They can be designed for a multitude of applications.
Also known as gantry robots, these robots have a rectangular field and work in a linear motion on X, Y, and Z axes. Cartesian robots are the most cost-effective robot and are highly customizable. Often these robots are fitted with additional motions like a wrist for rotating and tilting the end effector. These programmable robots are extremely positionally accurate.
SCARA (Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm)Robots work on a cylindrical field. We typically see a rotary joint, allowing the pivoting shaft and extendable arm to offer horizontal-linear movement while rotating on the vertical axis. These robots most commonly pick up and place objects and are simple to operate and can small loads at very high speeds.
The way we utilize these types of robots in automotive manufacturing can be broken down by function and need.
Collaborative Robots, sometimes referred to as Cobots, are a type of robot built to work safely alongside human workers in a shared workspace. They monitor human location on the factory floor and will shut down if someone gets too close. They often do monotonous and repetitive work or can be used as an exoskeleton or assistant to humans. Some Cobots don’t require typical programming as they learn through simulation.
Painting vehicles is a highly toxic job that is better suited for robots. Robot lines can paint quickly and consistently with minimal waste.
Robotic welding is imperative to the car building process. Every vehicle undergoes a ton of welding before it is complete, and robots accomplish this quickly and consistently.
Windshield, fender and panel installation, or wheel mounting, as well as other components that must be assembled, can be done significantly faster and more accurately. These handling robots are also commonly Cobots.
The ability to repeat patterns exactly significantly improves the consistency when trimming plastic moulds or fabrics to size when compared to a human.
Robotics is no stranger to automotive manufacturing, and now we are starting to see even larger leaps in technology. Assembly lines are becoming safer, more efficient and less expensive to operate. Humans are able to work with thoughts and skills, while robots take care of tasks. The establishment of the ‘Smart Factory’ through the adaptation of automotive machinery and Artificial Intelligence (AI) leads the way for the future of automotive business everywhere.
Innovative Automation is on the leading edge of automation technology. We continually design and manufacture complete systems and successfully integrate elements into existing cells for our clients. To learn more about IAI and our work, contact us today or read more about the industries we work in.