This revised ISO/TS 15066 specification expands on sections specifically dealing with collaborative robots, or cobots as they’re sometimes called, and it also builds on the ISO 10-218 standard. The 15066 specification and ISO’s standard describe guidelines covering collaborative model use within four main areas, including safety-monitored stops, hand-guiding, speed and separation monitoring, and power and force limiting.

Making inroads into automotive Up until very recently, automation developers aimed

collaborative robots mostly at very lightweight assembly applications. But this cobot class of smaller units recently has made some headway into the automotive realm— which historically used larger, higher-payload robots for heavy lifting—for some new auto assembly applications. For example, Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) announced on July 14 that it started testing new cobots from KUKA Robotics at its assembly plant in Cologne, Germany, where Ford Europe builds the Ford Fiesta car model (see story and Ford video link at In a conjunction with robot manufacturer KUKA Ro-

boter GmbH (Augsburg, Germany), Ford initially tested the small, 3’ (0.9-m) high KUKA collaborative robots on an assembly line helping workers install shock absorbers. Rather than use a heavy shock absorber installation tool, the workers have the robot lift and automatically position the shock into the wheel arch before pushing a button to install the component. “Working overhead with heavy air-powered tools is a tough job that requires strength, stamina, and accuracy.

The robot is a real help,” said Ngali Bongongo, a produc- tion worker at Ford’s Cologne plant. Equipped with sen- sors, the collaborative robots stop immediately if they de- tect an arm or even a finger in their path, ensuring worker safety. Similar technology also is used in the pharmaceuti- cal and electronics industries. Developed over two years, this specific automotive robot program was carried out in close partnership with KUKA in Germany. Ford’s Cologne assembly plant trial is part of the com-

pany’s investigations into Industry 4.0, a term describing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which embraces automa- tion, data exchange and manufacturing technologies. Ford sought feedback from more than 1000 production line workers to identify tasks for which the robots would best be suited, according to the company. “Robots are helping make tasks easier, safer and quicker, complementing our employ- ees with abilities that open up unlimited worlds of produc- tion and design for new Ford models,” Karl Anton, director, vehicle operations, Ford of Europe, said in a statement. The possibilities for collaborative-style robots are

tremendous, noted Rick Maxwell, director of engineer- ing, FANUC America Corp. (Rochester Hills, MI). About 16 months ago, FANUC introduced its 35-kg payload CR- 35iA collaborative robot, which Maxwell said is the largest power-enforced robot on the market with over 1800 mm of reach. FANUC also plans to this fall introduce a new, smaller model, the CR-7iAL, a 7-kg payload collaborative robot with 900 mm of reach. It will be aimed at smaller material-handling applications. For many automotive applications in particular, collabor- ative robots that can lift a substantial amount of weight, like

Fast-moving ABB robots employ a variety of safety features to keep workers safe from accidents. ABB recently expanded its SafeMove software technology to help ensure factory-floor safety.


Fall 2016

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