Autonomous Robots in Car Manufacturing

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August 25, 2022


Mobility / Robotics


Autonomous Robots in Car Manufacturing

Robots are key for car manufacturers to keep up with the demands of their current market. As technology in general advances, car manufacturers must keep up with it and the increasing demand of its current market as well. This idea was realized by the automotive industry as early as the 60s by starting to utilize robotics as means of increasing car production in factories and, at the same time, reduce the cost and error that human workers come with. Robots, in general, made it efficient to produce cheap but high-quality cars.

Even more so, it is what revolutionized car manufacturing and made it one of the most automated industries so far. Companies as old as General Motors and as young as Tesla upgrade their factories to use autonomous robots to increase productivity, decrease production costs, and lessen worker accidents in the workplace.

Diverse applications of robotics in various stages of car production

Robots can be made intelligent enough with the use of camera arrays or light sensors for better sight for applications that require precision, like stamping metal plates and trimming plastics and fabrics, as well.

Programmed robot welders, with the assistance of the larger robot handlers suitable for holding the plates, are the right tools for precision welding. These collaborative robots, or COBOTs for short, are fit for the assembly line, where they are programmed to be almost perfectly in sync with each other. The program of the orientation of the robotic arms can be set and adjusted within the robot handler’s and the welder’s code so that they would be out of each other’s way within the assembly lines.

Priming and painting the body is perfect for automotive robots. Robots won’t inhale the toxic fumes of paint and be indisposed eventually like a human would. It can be programmed to stop spraying paint at a precise point, to spray in a linear fashion, and to specify how many coats of paint it should perform after how many hours of drying, among other things, therefore, limiting the wastage of paint.

High-speed car assembly is the ideal job for autonomous robots. Robot arms can precisely install the windshield, wheels, and screws with no wasted movements. There are synchronized efforts of collaborative robot arms in gluing and assembling parts. This technology has enabled car factories nowadays to fully finish one car every less than two minutes.

Mobile robots can do the support tasks for other robots themselves, like logistics of the parts and tools from the warehouse to the different robot stations within the vast factory area. There are also robots explicitly built to support humans on inspection and quality control, where the robots can be programmed to mimic the motion and force of a human operator, and the robot’s arms are also capable of reaching inside and pressing the switches and buttons as part of stress testing, all in a quick and consistent manner.

Companies that help automate the automobile industry

All of these remarkable technology upgrades are impossible without the companies who create the robots themselves and help the car companies integrate these into their current setup.

Universal Robots, which started in 2005, not only creates collaborative robots for car manufacturers but also trains industry professionals and students alike in using their technology through their UR Academy across 24 countries around the world.

TW Automation has been around 23 years helping other automobile companies in integrating robotic automation solutions in their factories, specializing in robotic welding, and intends to improve their technological expertise.

GÖPEL, which specializes in quality control systems for electronic assemblies and PCBs, created a groundbreaking quality control system specifically for its car manufacturer market, specifically in the end of line seating test system via simulation of the driver and vehicle interaction. This includes the

Rethink Robotics, another company that mainly provides solutions with quality control systems has a COBOT named Sawyer that operates in tight spots and is used by the automotive companies for inspecting assembly line parts.

Rockwell Automation deploys robots that do body shop procedures that include painting and installation and even quality control and inventory management as well. The company is geared especially helping towards the production of electric cars.

Acieta does robots that specialize in assembly line operations which create automobile components like pumps, and also does welding of car parts like panels and brackets. They already installed and serviced car factories with tens of thousands of robots in North America.

Is there a place for robotics in the production lines of the future?

There may come a time where robots would comprise the entirety of the factory workers; good for the company and the customers, but bad for the members of the labor market that made a livelihood out of working in the production lines, which would further lead to unions rising up, job losses due to their positions being redundant, and eventually the knowledge of the assembly line becomes nearly obsolete because “the robots took our jobs.” But is the apt term for this dilemma “robots versus humans”? Perhaps the right way to think about it must start with this question: “What should be the right ratio of robots and humans working in a production line?” Removing the humans from the car manufacturing equation altogether spells frequent disarray within the assembly line; in some cases, due to faulty or lack of maintenance, the robots tried to install the wrong bumpers on another car model and also spray and waste precious supplies of paint on each other. No kidding; these happened in General Motors. Too many robots would slow down production, human errors would cost the company more, and the automotive industry would effectively go a few years back, technology-wise.

If companies eventually hit the sweet spot of the ratio of robots versus humans in factories and set up an industry standard based on it, then there may be a future where every person able to drive will have the means to purchase a cheap car without categorizing it in their budget as a major purchase, no more workers in the production line will fear for their lives every time they clock in the factory, and all of the car manufacturing owners sleep happily knowing the money saved is another car created.

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