HRC: Ingenics and Audi Work on Solutions to Enhance Quality in Optimized Assembly in the Context of Industry 4.0
Optimizing assembly in the context of Industry 4.0
The optimized use of robotic systems is playing an increasingly important role with respect to Industry 4.0. In order to achieve maximum efficiency in assembly, robots and people will have to work together much more closely than was – and in many cases still is – typical or possible in traditional factories. In Ingolstadt, Audi and Ingenics are working to create new solutions in human–robot collaboration (HRC) that will first be put to the test in pilot projects.
- Recording of all HRC-relevant cycles
- Analysis and evaluation of HRC applications
- Ranking of HRC applications in terms of implementation horizon, level of innovation, technological maturity, and cost
- Multi-page concept descriptions for promising applications
- Project briefs to provide a basis for tender documents
- Overview and evaluation of robot manufacturers and system houses
- Risk analysis
Developments in production under the influence of Industry 4.0 mean that robots need to be used in close cooperation with people without elaborate protective equipment: each side must complement the other safely and without risk. Until now, there has been a strict separation between jobs performed by people and robots for safety reasons. Work areas were normally separated by security fences, preventing human–robot collaboration from turning into human–robot collision. However, this also caused companies to miss out on exploiting major sources of potential for efficient and smooth production. In many areas, people are now rethinking human–robot collaboration, and there will have to be extensive reorganization in this area.
Previously, it was the case that wherever humans and robots “got in each other’s way”, machines would stop as soon as a potentially hazardous situation was detected. As a result, production may have slowed down or come to a complete standstill for a time. Against the background of discussions about Industry 4.0, this seems almost anachronistic.
For this reason, experts no longer want to make do with yesterday’s concepts. Instead, they are developing new protection concepts that allow close cooperation without slowing down operations in production. New systems have to register activities as they happen and precisely assess potential risks based on the overall context and current situation. Standardization of context-dependent protection systems and their integration into intelligent production environments are essential steps for financially viable deployment of robots in mixed work environments.
Clearly, reliable protection systems remain indispensable wherever work of people and machines overlap However, in order to make production as efficient as possible and to strike a perfect balance between the advantages of human and robot performance, robots should never be taken out of service or too narrowly limited in their activities. Thanks to smart integration of sensors, software, and lightweight robots, the entire system can calculate each risk and take protective action, from evasive maneuvers and speed adjustments to altered movement sequences.
It is not enough to simply come up with concepts for so-called cyber–physical work environments – these also have to be implemented and proven to be fit for their purpose in practice. Ingenics’ AG team has created a comprehensive list of criteria to enable systematic identification, analysis, and evaluation of HRC applications. Using this list in an assembly facility enables identification and classification of potentially realistic scenarios from a pool of possible fields of application.
Ingenics has expertise and extensive experience in assembly planning and implementation that is necessary to evaluate HRC applications. In addition to specific knowledge of properties of HRC robots and a systematic approach to analysis and evaluation, the consulting firm offers everything it takes to ensure that fast, clear identification of potential HRC applications and their realization are both achievable goals. Ingenics was commissioned to carry out a project of this nature by Audi AG in Ingolstadt, where the intent was to quickly implement possible applications that appeared promising.
The combined project team with employees from Audi and Ingenics defined a road map to ensure that nothing would stand in the way of a rapid implementation. At the end of the definition stage, Audi praised Ingenics’ consultants for their level of technical expertise. The collaboration was constructive and on-target, helping to make sure that Audi AG can retain its “Vorsprung durch Technik” or “Advancement Through Technology” when it comes to HRC applications – a concept that matters a great deal to management. Initial projects are now in pilot stages.