Present State And Trends In Applications Of Industrial Robots In Automotive Industry

Car vector created by macrovector

An Overview Of Industrial Robot Usage In The Automotive Industry, Which Nowadays Is The Most Important Customer Of The Industrial Robotic Market.

It is well known that the industry sector with one of the largest implementations of robots into production is the automotive industry, for instance in 2019 with 33% of total supply of robots (see Fig. 1).

Production of transport vehicles and cars for passengers, whether with a conventional internal combustion engine or increasingly widespread vehicles with hybrid drive and electric drive system respectively, has become more and more complex nowadays. A major part of all production processes currently requires automation based on two key production equipment – CNC machine tools and industrial robots. In addition, to call for the climate changes, the 2030-year targets will require low or zero-emission vehicles, which will need even faster and massive automation of new generation based on so-called “intelligent sensors”, cognitive and collaborative robots or other “smart technologies” (with respect to so-called “Nine basic blocks of concept Industry 4.0”) (Kuhlmann, 2016).

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production in automotive industry
fig1. Production in automotive industry

 

The Current State Of Robotics In The Automotive Industry

According to several sources, e.g., IFR (IFR, 2020), there have been demands for new investment projects aimed at the development, modernisation or creation of new production facilities for modern cars during the last decade.

As new materials and new technologies are constantly being used in automotive production, these projects have created a demand for the supply of the latest generation robots capable of meeting high technical requirements. This trend continues today and despite the difficult situation in 2020, it is assumed that it is not going to change significantly even with regards to the requirements of newly opened emerging markets. It is very likely that the application of robotics will become even more desirable also due to the effects of the global pandemic of COVID-19.

The situation has also confirmed that one of the weakest links in the production chain is a human operator. Therefore, it would be appropriate to increase the robustness of the production system to such circumstances, e.g., even with a wider application of robots. Of course, not all of the processes can be fully automated from the technical point of view, or this is not economically advantageous. However, also based on our experience (new project requirements for additional robotic cells to existing lines), we can say that the trend to automate more and more processes is already established.

Automotive robotics can be defined as the area of industrial robotics that has its focus and application in the automotive industry – directly in the main assembly line of the car factory or in the whole supply chain (plants of suppliers).

Their application in the entire production process allows to achieve a significant volume of process automation, reducing the need for human operators in monotonous processes, increasing safety and reliability. The most common “robotised processes” in automotive industry are: general handling, arc and spot welding, automated assembly, paint spraying, joint sealing, visual inspection, and quality check, as well as various additional tasks such as cleaning activities.

Nowadays, engineers in the automotive industry are exploring new tasks for robotics, while robots are more accurate, efficient, capable to perform increasingly complex and even more flexible tasks (Dodok, 2017). Therefore, the automotive industry still remains one of the most automated supply chains globally, and one of the largest users of robots (Robotics Business Review, 2021).

Automotive robotics is the area that generates the largest incorporation of industrial robots worldwide, currently covering 30% of total investments in the industry sector. The applications of robotics in the automotive industry that we could point out are (Kuric, 2019):

  • increase process accuracy and annual production rates in the automotive industry,
  • some tasks are automated and elaborated with limited human intervention,
  • health is guaranteed and possible occupational risks are reduced for workers,
  • effective activities and operations are generated for the handling of heavy and oversized materials.
Photo by macrovector – freepik

Future Of Automotive Robotics

Modern robots cooperate side-by-side with their human operators, replacing them in monotonous and sometimes physically arduous operations. It is expected that angular (also known as articulated, anthropomorphic) types of robots will continue to be a key element of robotics in the automotive industry, especially for their versatility, performance and efficiency. They are equipped by five or six independent axes (DOF – degrees of freedom) arranged in the so-called serial kinematics. This kinematics is suitable for activities such as: handling, machining, painting, transport and assembly (Hrušková, 2010).

Its advantages are flexible mounting possibilities and the possibility of obtaining any orientation of the end-effector (working head – gripper, spot gun, arc-welding torch, etc.) while they have a bit less stiffness (Kopas, 2017).

Despite the success of robots with conventional kinematics, one of the main emerging trends is the wider application of collaborative robots, also known as “cobots” (collaborative robot can be defined as a robot that collaborates with a human operator (Tlach,2017), application of so-called robots with a parallel kinematic structure capable of achieving enormous speeds and accelerations (up to 15 times gravitational acceleration),(Poppeová, 2013) that work in very short cycle times, as well as the “smart sensors” usage and possibilities of data exchange between devices, offered by Industry 4.0, (Bulej, 2018).

Another emerging trend is visible where the automated process requires more than one arm. In such cases, the dual arm robots perform multi-axial movements and various high-precision tasks by its redundant axes (Kelemen, 2018). The development of robotization is heading towards an autonomous factory, which will run production entirely on its own, however, as experts emphasize, there is still a long way to go, Knauf Industries (2020).

-End-

Adapted from “An overview of robot applications in automotive industry” by Michal Bartoša, Vladimír Bulej, Martin Bohušík, Ján Stanček, Vitalii Ivanov, Peter Macek. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Read the original article.

 

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