- Collaborative robots (cobots) work together with Ford engineers to apply finishing touches to Fiesta vehicles on the production line
- In a first for Ford, the cobots, that are also used to polish high-end audio equipment, are choreographed to finely sand the entire surface of the Ford Fiesta body
- After introducing the process in Cologne, Germany, Ford is now reviewing further rollout at the company’s facilities in Valencia, Spain, and Craiova, Romania
COLOGNE, Germany, Sept. 26, 2019 – Ford has for the first time introduced a team of collaborative robots (cobots) that works alongside engineers in Cologne, Germany, to ensure every Ford Fiesta has a perfect finish.
The six cobots complete a choreographed sequence to sand the entire body surface in just 35 seconds. The initiative does not replace employees but allows operators to use their time on more complex tasks and avoid suffering the strains associated with performing repetitive tasks.
“The cobots can feel when more force needs to be applied, just like we can, and they can more easily get to hard-to-reach places, like the centre of the roof,” said Dennis Kuhn, senior manufacturing engineer, Paint Shop, Ford of Europe.
Each cobot is a UR10, the world’s best-selling cobot, from Universal Robots, the kind that is also used in the audio equipment industry to polish high‑performance loudspeakers and subwoofers. In the Ford paint shop, they feature a 3D-printed soft flexible layer between the robotic arm and the sandpaper that enables the cobot to work with the same precision and dexterity as a human hand.
During the production process, each Fiesta is submerged in a special bath to provide more than ten years of corrosion protection. Afterwards, small flecks can remain on the surface, unseen to the naked eye, but that can be felt by hand and could impact the final finish of the vehicle. The six cobots step in to smooth away these inconsistencies and vacuum any dust left behind. Final checks are completed by two employees before the vehicle body moves along the line for the primer application.
For loudspeakers and audio equipment production with mostly flat surfaces, only one cobot is required. Introducing the technology on a moving production line for a multi-contoured vehicle required a new approach.
“It took several weeks to install the cobots and program them to move in harmony to smooth the unique contours of a Ford Fiesta, a task made all the more difficult because the vehicle never stops moving,” said Detlev Dahl, CEO, Dahl Automation. “But that’s where the adaptability of the cobots and our vast experience as one of the first Universal Robots certified system integrators came to the fore. With the moves mastered, they never miss a beat.”
Ford is reviewing further rollout of the cobots at the company’s facilities in Valencia, Spain, and Craiova, Romania. The company has already introduced other cobots that have been programmed to assist production line workers with complex assembly procedures, such as fitting shock absorbers to cars and spark plugs to engines; and also introduced a self-driving robot called “Survival”.
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 194,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.
Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 50,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and consolidated joint ventures and approximately 64,000 people when unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 20 manufacturing facilities (13 wholly owned facilities and seven unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.