Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ford Employs Robots for Better Production

Story first appeared in USA Today.

For Ford, the goal of the 700 robots is to reduce physical strain and save energy at the Louisville, Ky., plant that's going to make the new Ford Escape.

Ford says with the help of cameras, the robots are programmed to recognize any tiny deviation from specification such as gaps between door panels or the windshield and the vehicle body.

The ability of the machines to register any difference in each vehicle on the line improves our quality by providing a custom-like build.

Robots may work right alongside humans, and would reduce the need for Workers Compensation Insurance Coverage for much of the workforce.

Some of the robots work in concert with line workers to build the Escape more efficiently. The plant also has a variety of semi-autonomous robots, which do tasks that aren't safe for humans to do repetitively.

Robots manhandle the instrument panel, glass, paint and fenders on Escape. They try to fit door panels more tightly to reduce wind noise, upping the quality of each Escape that rolls off the line. A robotic arm applies the adhesive for the windshield to provide consistent, repeatable application and the glass is placed mechanically with suction cups.

In the paint shop, 88 new robots reduce energy costs by more efficiently applying paint and sealer inside the body and to the exterior of the vehicle, Ford says. Keeping humans out of the zones where the paint is applied reduces airflow and climate control requirements thereby saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

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