At its main plant in Ingolstadt, Germany, Audi has deployed a robot that works â€œhand-in-handâ€ with humans â€“ for the first time ever â€“ without a safety barrier and ideally adapted to the employeesâ€™ working cycles. It is the first human-robot cooperation at the Volkswagen Group to be applied in final assembly. For Dr. Hubert Waltl, Board of Management Member for Production at AUDI AG, while human-robot cooperation opens up entirely new possibilities, he nevertheless doesnâ€™t see a future of factories without people. â€œThe factory of the future will feature increasing interaction between man and machine. That allows us to automate routine operations and to optimise ergonomically unfavourable workplaces. â€œPeople will continue to make the decisions on production processes and our employees will continue to be essential for future-oriented, successful production,â€ Dr. Waltl said.
Peter Mosch, Chairman of the Group Works Council of AUDI AG, said, â€œWe see the opportunities presented by the advancing interaction between man and machine. The decisive aspect for us is how this development is guided. We welcome it when it neither jeopardises jobs nor leads to people losing independence to machines.â€ For the employees of the A4/A5/Q5 assembly lines at Audiâ€™s Ingolstadt plant, the new, direct cooperation between humans and robots is an enormous help. Until now, employees have had to bend over material boxes to take out the coolant expansion tanks which may seems like a simple task, but with frequent repetitions it can lead to back problems. From now on, the task will be taken over by a robot, known internally as â€œPART4youâ€. It works hand-in-hand with the Audi employees and is fitted with a camera and an integrated suction cup. This enables it to pick up the components from the boxes and to pass them to the assembly workers at the right time and in an ergonomically optimal position. â€œIn a production process with increasing diversity of model versions, PART4you provides the employees with important assistance.
It selects the correct component and holds it ready to be taken. This means that the employees no longer have to reach over long distances or bend down repeatedly,â€ said Johann Hegel, Head of Assembly Technology Development. â€œThe robot becomes an assembly assistant operating at the same speed as the assembly worker â€“ and not the other way around. Thanks to a soft protective skin with integrated safety sensors, there is no danger to the employees.â€ Because PART4you fulfils the special safety precautions for cooperating robots, the intelligent system has received the required certificate from the employersâ€™ liability insurance association. Since 2013, Audi employees in the A4 body shop in Ingolstadt have been working with the same type of robot equipped with an adhesive nozzle instead of a suction cup â€“ but with fixed timing and without passing components. In the body shop, the robots support the employees by applying adhesive to bonded seams. Instead of applying the adhesive to the body parts themselves, the employees only have to put them in place and start the automatic procedure.
Audi is planning further applications of human-robot cooperation, also at its international production sites.