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How Car Building Robots Have Revolutionized the Automotive Industry

The car manufacturing industry has been utilizing industrial bots for over fifty years. The first robot to be in usage in this industry was known as UNIMATE, and it was adopted by the company General Motors back in the 1960s. However, after seeing how effective the robot was in producing high-quality products at lower costs, other automotive companies started to join the venture. Over time the number of bots utilized in the car building industry has massively grown. Moreover, the technology has not been left behind, too, with more flexible, low-cost collaborative systems replacing and supplementing the inflexible and cumbersome traditional robots.

Utilizing robots allows automotive components and car makers to reduce production time and cost while at the same time producing high-quality products. What’s more, robots are good for material handling and to undertake tasks that could cause harm to human beings leaving humans to do other tasks that could help them scale up the company’s ladder.

The invention of cobots or collaborative robots has brought new possibilities to the Car manufacturing industry. That is because you can deploy this robot to work side by side with human employees, optimizing the car assembly line process. Moreover, cobots allow car manufacturers to free human employees from dangerous, dirty, dull, and monotonous tasks, and they can also work at a high speed 24/7 without needing any rest. What’s more, by equipping this bots with a laser and camera array, they can be able to perform more tasks autonomously. However, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg regarding how robots have transformed the automotive industry.

Where do we utilize the industrial robots?

car manufacturing robots

Many industries benefit from the automation that comes with industrial robots, and the automotive industry stands at the top of the list. Since General Motors adopted the very first industrial robot in the car production process, countless other companies and warehouses also began to utilize the technology.

Now robots are applicable in many different industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry, general manufacturing and the agricultural industry.

Universal bots are versatile, flexible and programmable to undertake countless tasks in varying environments. They reduce labor costs while simultaneously producing increased quality products at a fast rate.

When it comes to utilizing robots, the only limitation is safety compliance, the payload, and your imagination.

What does an Industrial Robot do?

Industrial bots utilized in the automotive manufacturing sector can handle many tasks that include inspecting finished products, pick and place tasks, packaging, palletizing, et cetera. Robots are specially designed to undertake highly monotonous tasks that could cause physical and psychological stress to human beings. Moreover, some industrial machines undertake strenuous physical tasks that could otherwise be challenging to humans.

Robot manufacturers can equip machines with artificial intelligence, machine vision systems and force sensing technology to help them respond to varying situations. With this system in place, manufacturers can gain real-time feedback from the robot regarding the manufacturing process.

Robots in the Automotive Manufacturing Industry

The most common problems faced by car manufacturers include:

  • Slow production time
  • Injuries occurring during the production process
  • Producing low-quality products

However, we can solve all these issues using a robot.

For instance, Ford uses the UR10 robot Ford to fill car engines with oil, grease camshafts, and undertake quality inspections. Using this robot, Ford has been able to produce more cars in a short period. What’s more, employees in this company have been relieved from highly repetitive tasks.

Machines can undertake most physical tasks involved in the car production process. Moreover, they are also essential in carrying out decision-making tasks, for example, undertaking fail/pass quality inspections to ensure that the goods produced are of high quality.

Ways that Automotive Manufacturers utilize Robots in the Car Production Process

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Robots have six primary applications in the automotive industry. These applications are undertaking quality inspection, material polishing and removal, machine tending, welding, painting, and assembly.

Before the invention of cobots, car manufacturers needed different robots to undertake each of the tasks mentioned above. However, now manufacturers only need one cobot to undertake all these tasks.

Automotive Assembly

Cobots undertake crucial tasks in the car manufacturing process, which include assembling the actual vehicles. Cobots can tackle monotonous tasks such as windshield installation and door handles installation with ease, relieving human workers from these tasks to help them focus on higher-value tasks.

Large industrial Robots that bear a higher payload, for example, the UR16 robot that has a payload of 35.3lb or 16kgs, can handle bulkier items, such as engine hoods, hatches, and wheels. On the other hand, the smaller robots known as UR5 cobot are lightweight and flexible and they are hence utilized by other companies to assemble car seats. The UR5 cobot bears a small footprint; this enables it to function well in tight spaces spaces where it can perform tasks such as:

–          Assembling car seats

–          Assembling rest frames

The UR5 can complete 8,500 screw driving actions in one day hence highly optimizing the production process of vehicles.

Painting

Painting bots have become pretty popular in the automotive manufacturing industry. That is because this robot offers impeccable performance round the clock and its painting performance is pretty consistent. Furthermore, since the paint utilized in the automotive industry is pretty toxic to humans, it poses a great issue that is solved using robots.

Challenging tasks, for example, applying even coats of paint on large car surfaces, are best undertaken by robots due to their precise work and consistency.

The performance and precision offered by industrial robots utilized to undertake painting tasks lowers production costs immensely. That is because these robots waste less paint, and they also eliminate human errors that cost a lot of money to fix.

Welding

Welding is a time-consuming, dangerous and monotonous task that industrial robots can perform better. Robots can tackle spot welding, plasma, ultrasonic, MIG, laser, TIG, and Arc welding with a lot of ease. What’s more, these robots can also undertake brazing and soldering.

UR and fanuc robots are pretty popular bots to undertake car welding tasks. These robots are pretty affordable and flexible. You will mostly find them in small car manufacturing companies.

Machine Tending

Machine tending is a task that is dull, dirty, and repetitive. Hence, the task is ideally good for robots as they perform repetitive tasks well. Recent research has shown that most automotive companies have now adopted machine tending robots in their automotive manufacturing process.

Bajaj auto motors, an automotive company located in India, heavily utilizes cobots in their car production process. The company was actually the first company in India to utilize cobots in its production process. Since then, the company has deployed over a hundred cobots and robotic arms which have helped optimize its assembly lines. Their cobots tackle challenging and repetitive tasks like machine tending.

Bajaj automotive company now seeks to improve their standard two-wheeler cars and boost their production speed with the help of cobots and robotic arms.

Polishing and Material removal Robots

Polishing automotive parts and material removal are two tasks processes that are pretty crucial in the car production process. These processes involve cleaning up automotive parts along the way via trimming flash metal. They also involve polishing up molds for smoother finishes.

However, this task, just like multiple other tasks in the Car manufacturing industry, tends to be highly monotonous and sometimes even dangerous. Thus, collaborative robots are better placed to execute them.

Material removal tasks typically include Routing, Drilling, Sanding, Milling, Deburring and Grinding.

Robotiq, a robot-making company, has designed a series of finishing kits utilized by different automotive factories to optimize their production process. These finishing kits undertake highly repetitive tasks, such as sanding, surface finishing, and external tools finishing excellently.

The finishing kit includes Copilot software, a software specially designed by the company to help manufacturers program their robots to undertake finishing tasks. The software is user-friendly, and users can easily utilize it to program their bots regardless of their robotics expertise.

UR and fanuc robots, on the other hand, are designed to work in a flexible manner alongside human workers. Hence, they are in heavy usage in the car production process to undertake polishing and material removal tasks. Moreover, since these robots are tiny, they become applicable in small spaces.

Quality Control Bots

Quality inspection brings out the difference between a successful production and a labor-intensive, expensive failure. Since this process is pretty crucial in the car production process, most manufacturers opt to utilize cobots to minimize human errors and optimize the process.

UR bots come with a variety of software and hardware designed to help manufacturers automate the quality inspection process. These robots can perform tasks such as Metrology and Optical inspection.

Different companies worldwide utilize these robots for machine tending and quality inspection. The use of these robots helps reduce customer rejections while at the same time boosting the production process immensely. Most companies that opt to utilize bots in their assembly lines report zero defects encountered during their production process and even an increase in terms of production.

Pros of Robotic Applications in the Automotive Industry

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Boosting Production Quality

Robots utilized in the automotive industry dramatically boost the quality of a product. That is because these bots perform multiple monotonous tasks with great precision. Moreover, these bots maintain consistency throughout the production process, ensuring high-quality products each time.

Increase throughput

Bots utilized in the automotive industry boost car production since they can work 24/7 without needing a break. Moreover, these robots maintain their precision throughout, helping manufacturers achieve throughputs that are hard to attain when working with human workers alone. Companies working with industrial robots report an increase in production almost instantly.

Boosting workplace safety

Robots utilized in the automotive industry boost workplace safety immensely. That is because they are useful in handling tasks that could cause harm to humans, for example, painting cars. They also handle highly monotonous tasks that leave humans to handle other tasks, for example generating new ideas to help the world.

Savings

Industrial robots in the automotive sector do not require a salary at the end of the month or insurance and healthcare, even though they can work 24/7. What’s more, robots boost the product quality of vehicles produced, which in turn leads to customer satisfaction. Manufacturers utilize this advantage to maintain customers, reduce costs and stay in business.

Reduced Injuries

Automotive companies utilize robots to undertake tedious, dirty, and risky tasks. In doing so, these companies experience fewer injury cases which in turn saves them money in terms of sick time and downtime.

Cons of Robotic Applications in the Automotive Industry

Initial Investment

Even though large industrial robots help car manufacturers save a lot of money over time via cutting labor costs and boosting production, they cost a lot of money to purchase. Therefore, most small-scale companies avoid purchasing them as it might mess with their budget.

If you are looking to purchase an industrial robot, be sure to include the bots purchase on the company’s budget. Doing so will help you make appropriate decisions about incorporating bots in your company.

No Result Guaranteed

Just purchasing a robot and incorporating it into your company does not guarantee that your production rate will automatically skyrocket. Therefore, before purchasing a robot to incorporate into your automotive company, devise a plan first. The plan will help you know the right bots to purchase to optimize your production process. Failure to have a plan prior to purchasing your robot could have a negative effect on you automotive company.

Need for Expertise

Industrial robots require a lot of expertise. Therefore, after purchasing an industrial robot, manufacturers then need to train their employees to utilize the bots effectively. Training takes time and requires the utilization of resources. Some car manufacturing plants even opt to bring in new employees who have experience in dealing with industrial robots. In doing so, they increase the number of employees waiting for a pay cheque at the end of the month.

Maintenance

Industrial robots must undergo maintenance every once to maximize efficiency. Besides, as new technology keeps on emerging every single day, sometimes these bots should undergo upgrades for manufacturers to cope with the market competition. All this action require the utilization of resources, and time.

Conclusion

Robots have countless applications in the automotive world. When utilized properly, they increase the quality of goods produced while at the same time reducing production time and cost. What’s more, robots help automotive manufacturers reduce workplace injuries by utilizing robots to tackle dangerous tasks.

Cobots or collaborative robots are pretty popular in the automotive industry due to their adaptability and flexibility. We can utilize collaborative bots on the factory floor, close to your employees. Moreover, these bots can fit in tiny spaces since they are pretty flexible and small. With these robots, car manufacturers have been able to optimize the production of their vehicles immensely hence transforming the automotive supply chain.