Human Partnership With Automatic Robot Measurement In Motion

Automotive manufacturers are looking for solutions to increase efficiencies on the assembly line. Innovative automation solutions should increase the degree of automation where human and robot share the workplace along the assembly line.

As an example at one workstation two to four robots can simultaneously measure and inspect the gap dimensions and flush-mounting of body components, such as between the tailgate and side panel or between the headlights and hood, while workers simultaneously perform further quality tests on the body. Measuring heads can be integrated into the application, which can also measure the exact gap dimension on transparent materials such as glass or plastic in the front headlight area using laser technology. Automation in final assembly is a fairly new field. The fact that humans and robots share the workplace along the flow assembly line has been a rarity up to now.

In combination with optical detection and its haptic sensor technology, the sensitive KUKA LBR iiwa robot automatically adapts to new situations in the event of belt vibrations or stops, and continues to carry out its work seamlessly. “The ‘Assembly in Motion’ solution makes the robot an intelligent positioning unit for the measuring device”, comments Otmar Honsberg, Head of Application Engineering at KUKA.

The intelligent control software from KUKA enables the lightweight robot to maintain a constant connection to the assembly line or the assembly carriages, and thus to obtain precise information about their speed and position. The control software transmits the acquired data on the exact position and speed of the assembly carriage on the assembly line directly to the lightweight robots. Using this information, the sensitive robots can dynamically adapt their activities to the motion operation.

“The measurements are carried out relative to the component. This enables the robot to carry out its measuring task completely autonomously in motion operation.“, explains Otmar Honsberg, “In contrast to conventional robot-based measurement, this is a real benefit.”

Another advantage of the sensitive ‘Assembly in Motion’ solution compared to measurement applications with conventional industrial robots is the maximum reduction in space requirements. Industrial robots take up considerably more space due to the necessary safety equipment. With the sensitive lightweight robot KUKA LBR iiwa, on the other hand, human operators can work safely in the tightest of spaces within the same work area. Moreover, unlike the integration of other industrial robots, the re-configuration options and small footprint of the lightweight robot mean that station expansions during measurement operation can be carried out quickly and easily at a later time.

Process Know-How Allows Intelligent Data Analysis

The result of a gap measuring station with ‘Assembly in Motion’ technology, are reliable measured values on a moving car body – and thus a significant gain in efficiency compared to previous measurements. In the future, automated measuring stations in motion operation will even allow early conclusions to be drawn about possible errors in production: “If the robots measure changes in the gap dimensions, they can independently point out possible causes with the correspondingly defined process logistics,” says Honsberg. For example, premature machine wear or incorrect settings in production could be detected before they have an impact on the production process. “With our extensive process know-how, we are able to sensibly evaluate the large amount of data that accumulates in automated assembly and react in a forward-looking manner.”

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