Case Study: A Bigger and Bigger Control Screen in Cars, and Who’s Working on It?

01Background

With the trend of intelligent vehicle system, in order to achieve better visual interaction experience and content display, the screen size has also undergone great changes. The on-board central control screen is being promoted on more and more vehicle models. The large screen has better expansibility, capable of displaying more content and stronger customization capability. Located in East China, this auto supporting manufacturer is an early participant in the research of large-screen solutions. It pays attention to interactive experience and fully considers user needs — it has strong advantages in stability, safety and reliability. With the increasing demand for customization, manufacturers need to have more flexibility on the supply side to meet rapid switching and changes in multiple production lines. Therefore, they have been looking for automation solutions that can help existing production lines improve production efficiency and have flexibility.

02Major Difficulties

As collaborative robot technology developed so far, one of the most widely used scenario is the auto parts industry, including whole vehicle and Tier One Companies such as Continental Automotive Electronics, Valeo, BMW, Audi, Shanghai Volkswagen, Nissan, etc, which introduce collaborative robots in subsequent manufacturing processes for handling, assembly, screw lock, testing, coating and other applications. Different from traditional industrial robots, which need to be equipped with security fence, collaborative robots can accomplish human-machine shared operation space. In addition, rich interfaces and easy-to-use programming experience give this production tool full characteristics of flexibility, lightness, safety and easy programming in the process of use. Therefore, more and more factories borrow the ideas and applied them in similar scenarios, and they incorporate collaborative robots into transformation and upgrading of existing production lines. 

The customer in this case tries to introduce the collaborative robot at the inspection station, and the central control screen stays at the inspection station for 75 seconds without any fault-tolerant space. Manually, each product shall be tested for buttons and touch screens, and only qualified products can be transferred to the next process. “At this stage, we have been manually performing this task with human,” said the engineering director. “As long as it is manually operated, there will inevitably be errors and omissions. Therefore, we have been hoping to replace human with automated solutions to improve the efficiency and accuracy of product inspection.”

The customer chooses to place ELITE EC63 (3KG load) collaborative robot in the position of touch screen quality inspection. When touching the touch panel with EC63 stylus, if the material has no quality problem, it will flow out smoothly. If any problem is detected, “NG” will be displayed on the display screen, and the signal light will be on with the sound of the alarm. The operator can immediately notice the situation and deal with it in time.

03Our Solution

Two EC63 desktop-type collaborative robots are applied to the terminal inspection station. The left robot performs key inspection, and the right robot is responsible for touch control inspection. The collaborative robot is especially suitable for the automation transformation of small space and meets the requirements of curved or double-sided screen inspection.

“To ensure the safety of our employees, we conducted a risk assessment in accordance with the company’s safety standards,” said the engineering director. For example, when we first imported EC63, we made a few adjustments to ensure security. Since the working accuracy and stability of the collaborative robot is higher than that of human, it can meet the efficiency requirements of production line and the quality of inspection work has been improved.”

From the robot delivery to the overall design, installation and testing of the system, the whole cycle took about one and a half months. Connecting the robot to an external device, such as a PLC and A PC, is a relatively difficult step. “After about two weeks of repeated testing, we set up our own independent system,” the customer said. It is worth mentioning that ELITE and the customer together improved the gripper design. After repeated fine tuning of the gripper, the gripper’s touch control adaptability is better and can support the inspection of various touch modes.
The supervisor in charge of inspection said confidently when he mentioned the introduction of collaborative robots, “Employees are prone to make mistakes when using the touch-screen system, but I am satisfied that the collaborative robot can do the job accurately. After turning on the robot, the inspection task can be completed by the robot independently, so the productivity is also improved a lot. When there is an abnormal shutdown, the system will send out an alarm and the technical person in charge of production will come and check, so we can rest assured that the production will not be interrupted.”

In fact, the customer saved about 1.5 workers by using the collaborative robot, which paid for itself in 18 months. As a result, the company plans to deploy more collaborative robots in other production lines. “Assembly has always been a labor-intensive process, and we can’t rule out that we will try to replace people in these positions in the future, after all, flexible automation is a big trend in the future.” For the future applications, it’s not just ELITE; the confidence and experience our customers accumulate in practice will lead to more imagination.

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