Ford decided that there is no reason for robots and human workers to compete. Instead, it’s created a system that allows humans and robots to work together. Let’s call it co-botting. Humans and robots working hand-in-hand to build cars.
The company’s “co-bots” are basically big robotic arms. (Not like the robotic work gloves GM is developing). The arms consist of a joint, shoulder, and wrist with a normal-sized, albeit large, human shaped hand at the end. They’re about three feet tall and they’re designed to help workers lift and place heavy parts on the assembly line. Ford claims it’s the first automaker to have humans and robotic tech working so closely together.
Ford wants us to warm up to them, too. They’ve even created a cheeky video showing the robot doing things like making coffee, giving a head massage, and shaking hands with human workers.
Currently, the robot is being used to place shock absorbers in the Ford Fiesta, which is built in Cologne, Germany. Installing the shock absorbers requires perfect accuracy and a lot of strength. Humans guide the co-bots to make sure the heavy equipment gets installed perfectly every time.
“Working overhead with heavy air-powered tools is a tough job that requires strength, stamina, and accuracy. The robot is a real help,” says production worker Ngali Bongongo.
Ford started working on the co-bot as part of its Industry 4.0 investigation. That’s just a fancy title for what Ford considers the fourth industrial revolution. It focuses on integrating automated technologies into manufacturing. Ford went to its assembly workers, too, to get their thoughts on where the robots might be most useful.
The robots may rub shoulders with the human workers. Yet, a safety feature that keeps them from ever actually coming into direct contact. They use advanced sensing technology to detect when human hands or fingers are in their path and stop immediately.
We look forward to seeing what else Ford puts the co-bots up to. Who knows. The factory could be the first step in making home-bots, like Rosie the Robot, a reality of the near future. Now that’s something worth high-fiving a co-bot for.
Photo Credit: Ford