If advanced factories strictly concentrate on the machinery without taking human beings into account, will the robots have to consume the products they build? When Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line to mass produce an entire automobile (Dec. 1, 1913), he more than doubled the wages of assembly line workers to stabilize his workforce. With these wages, Ford Motor Company workers could also become customers.
Keeping humans involved safely, while being at the center of a sophisticated production system, surrounded by machinery was the goal of Comau’s Advanced Use Robotic Arm or AURA robot design. In the Human-centered Manufacturing System (HuManS) project, this goal was achieved. To have humans work cooperatively with robots safely, involved the collaboration of FPT Industrial, Comau and another 17 other companies.
Standing almost three meters high and weighing about three tons, the AURA industrial robot can work alongside humans, without barriers and in the same work station. The robot helps the human operator and performs the most tiring and repetitive tasks, the hallmark of assembly lines since 1913. When necessary, the robot is manually guided by the human operator.
Safely working in the same confined workspace requires the AURA robot to be able to detect and properly react to the presence of other machinery or a real person. Four sensors help solve this challenge.
Soft, sensitive skin inspired by human skin allows the robot to decide whether to reduce its speed or stop entirely. A 3D camera allows the robot uses to scan and recognize the position of the work piece. Touch sensors in the gripper, make the robot capable of lifting the component with a firm but delicate grip. Finally, to work alongside a human on the FPT Industrial driveline assembly line without any barriers, AURA uses an advanced and complex laser scanning system to scan and monitor the work space when the arm is in operation.
The result of the collaboration is a robotic arm capable of lifting and moving up to 170 kilograms (375 pounds) with a human handling the delicate assembly stage.