We are in the era of technology, and today, many industries use robotics in their manufacturing processes, with the automotive sector leading the pack. The car manufacturing industry started its robotics journey with industrial robots in the 1960s. The value of the robotics market in 2020 was an estimated $9 billion, with the figure anticipated to topple $16 billion by 2026.
However, things are different today. The industry uses more than just the traditional industrial robots characterized by their large footprints, less scalability, complex programming skills, and high cost of implementation and maintenance.
Today, the car manufacturing industry utilizes technological innovations in their manufacturing processes such as glue dispensing, welding, and painting to achieve zero defects and increase production, among other benefits.
Below are some of the most common innovative robotics used in the car manufacturing industry.
Collaborative Robots (Cobots)
Since the adoption of industrial robots in the car manufacturing industry, full automation of tasks such as painting and welding are now possible. With changing technology and the introduction of collaborative robots into the market, robot roles are different. Cobots are now the experts on the car manufacturing assembly lines.
Besides being basically robotic, with the ability to automate complex tasks quickly and easily, cobots are highly efficient for flexible and versatile applications. Some of the cobot applications in the car manufacturing industry are:-
One of the most attractive features of the cobot is its small size and payload that allows it to access confined spaces to handle the lighter parts. They assist in different automotive assembly facets, and they are easy to deploy for a range of different roles. Assembling is also a repetitive application, and cobots can do their work with high repeatability and accuracy, ensuring the correct assembling of all the parts.
Welding automation is one of the newest car manufacturing cobot applications. The adoption came when the welding sector needed to address the shortage of skilled welders in the market.
Welding cobots such as the Universal Robot’s robotic arms automate small automobile component welding closing up the deficit caused by the deficiency of skilled welders. Cobots take over some welding processes such as arc welding, ultrasonic welding, plasma welding, spot welding, and laser welding.
For many years, the car manufacturing industry has relied heavily on industrial robots for automotive painting. However, the sector today uses cobots and automatic spray guns for their painting processes. Programming a collaborative robot for controlled movements to cover the parts that need painting is much easier.
They also reduce paint waste, keep the workers safe from the paint fumes, and increase the quality. It is also easy to integrate the cobots with traditional six-axis industrial robots for more high-quality paint finishes.
4. Machine Tending
Machine tending represents the most extensive cobot application in the automotive industry. The process involves loading car parts into a machine for task execution and removing the finished product to reload another part. For humans, machine tending is time-consuming, tedious, repetitive, and risky.
Cobots reduce or prevent the risks, are lightweight for easy deployment, and carry out repetitive tasks accurately. Unlike traditional industrial robots, collaborative robots do not need shielded work cells, increase productivity, and they can work alongside humans without compromising their safety.
5. Material Removal
Material removal processes include milling, grinding, deburring, drilling, trimming, and cutting. These tasks are repetitive, time-consuming, and tedious for the human workforce, but automating them with a collaborative robot makes them efficient, fast, and flexible.
The cobots also relieve the employees from repeatedly doing the same tasks, finding allocations in other value-added applications.
Moreover, the cobots integrated with force/torque sensors provide precision and consistency with less scrap and waste.
The success of every project is quality, and to ensure that everything is covered, an inspection of the finished product is crucial. Using collaborative robots for quality inspection is one of the automated processes many car-manufacturing sectors are using today.
The cobots integrated with robotic vision systems can detect inconsistencies and defects too minor for the human eye. Using them for inspection maintains consistency, reliability, and quality.
Another robotic trend in the car manufacturing industry is the use of wearable robots or exoskeletons. They offer support to the body by distributing the weighty load evenly, thus preventing physical injury and stress. Exoskeletons are ideal for the aging staff and repetitive tasks on the production line.
Over the past years, the advancement of drone technology is evident in many industries. One of the sectors to adopt drone technology is the health sector for food and medical delivery in remote areas. Drones are a new addition to the car manufacturing industry. They help to solve some of the significant logistic problems in the industry by delivering car parts.
Manufacturing cars with the highest quality requires great care in handling, consistency, and high levels of attention. Additionally, every part of material handling within the car manufacturing industry demands high performance and precision.
Besides using industrial robots, collaborative robots, and other automation applications, using automatic guided vehicle systems is another robotic trend making a change in the industry.
They are ideal for several applications that include delivering raw materials, moving work in progress between different manufacturing processes, transporting finished goods, and automating trailer loading and unloading.
Artificial intelligence systems are also becoming a norm in the car manufacturing industry. Some of the areas artificial intelligence systems improve in the sector are- machine learning and customizing areas such as car mirrors, seats, and pedals according to the customer’s preference.
The automotive industry is one of the leading industries and a significant economic and industrial force worldwide. The industry, which goes back over 100 years, makes millions of vehicles annually. It is also one of the first industries to embrace the use of automation for its manufacturing processes.
Today, the industry also leads in using the latest robotic applications that include collaborative robots, among others. Since the industry continues to grow, we expect the use of innovation to continue rising.