Generally at an automobile
plant you often get to see robots working their full potential away from any
human interference or proximity. No, they are not discriminated, it’s just the
way robots work. But now at Audi’s plant in Ingolstadt in Germany, the PART4you
robot works hand-in-hand with people – without any safety barriers and ideally
adapted to the employees’ working cycles. This innovative technology makes
production work easier and improves ergonomics.
Audi has for the first time
deployed a robot that works “hand-in-hand” with humans – without a safety
barrier and ideally adapted to the employees’ working cycles. It is the first
human-robot cooperation at the Volkswagen Group to be applied in final
assembly. This innovative technology makes work easier for the assembly
employees and makes ergonomic improvements, says an Audi press release.
For Dr. Hubert Waltl, Board of
Management Member for Production at AUDI AG, human-robot cooperation opens up entirely new possibilities: “The
factory of the future will feature increasing interaction between man and
machine. That allows us to automate routine operations and to optimise
ergonomically unfavourable workplaces.” But also in the future, there will be
no factory without people. “People will continue to make the decisions on
production processes. And our employees will continue to be essential for
future-oriented, successful production,” Waltl noted
Peter Mosch, Chairman of the
Group Works Council of Audi AG, commented, “We see the opportunities presented
by the advancing interaction between man and machine. The decisive aspect for
us is how this development is guided. We welcome it when it neither jeopardizes
jobs nor leads to people losing independence to machines.”
For the employees of the
A4/A5/Q5 assembly lines at Audi’s Ingolstadt plant, the new, direct cooperation
between humans and robots is an enormous help: Until now, they have had to bend
over material boxes to take out the coolant expansion tanks. At first glance,
this seems like a simple task, but with frequent repetitions it can lead to
back problems. From now on, the task will be taken over by a robot, known
internally as “PART4you”.
It works hand-in-hand with the
Audi employees and is fitted with a camera and an integrated suction cup. This
enables it to pick up the components from the boxes and to pass them to the
assembly workers – without any safety barrier, at the right time and in an
ergonomically optimal position. “In a production process with increasing
diversity of model versions, PART4you provides the employees with important
assistance. It selects the correct component and holds it ready to be taken.
This means that the employees no longer have to reach over long distances or
bend down repeatedly. The robot becomes an assembly assistant operating at the
same speed as the assembly worker – and not the other way around,” stated
Johann Hegel, Head of Assembly Technology Development.
“Thanks to a soft protective
skin with integrated safety sensors, there is no danger to the employees,”
explained Hegel. Because PART4you fulfills the special safety precautions for
cooperating robots, the intelligent system has received the required
certificate from the employers’ liability insurance association.
Since 2013, Audi employees in
the A4 body shop in Ingolstadt have been working with the same type of robot
equipped with an adhesive nozzle instead of a suction cup – but with fixed
timing and without passing components. In the body shop, the robots support the
employees by applying adhesive to bonded seams. Instead of applying the
adhesive to the body parts themselves, the employees only have to put them in
place and start the automatic procedure.
Audi is planning further
applications of human-robot cooperation, also at its international production