With the development of intelligent IVI system, dashboard screen size has also undergone dramatic changes for better visual interaction experience and content displaying. More and more cars are installed with dashboard screens. Large screen boasts better scalability as it can display more contents and be better customized. Located in East China, the automobile accessory plant begun developing large-screen IVI solutions very early, focusing on interactive experience and user needs – with outstanding advantages in product stability, safety and reliability. With the rise in demand for customization, manufacturers need to be more flexible to meet the requirements of production line on rapid changeover and multi varieties. As such, they are always looking for flexible automation solutions that can increase productivity.
02 Pain points
One of the most widely used scenarios for cobots to date is the automotive parts industry. Assembly plants and Tier One manufacturers, including Continental Automotive Electronics, Valeo, BMW, Audi, SAIC Volkswagen, Nissan, and others, have all introduced cobots for handling, assembly, screw locking, inspection, gluing, and other applications in the back-end process. Unlike traditional industrial robots, which requires safety fencing, cobots can share working space with humans. Beyond that, cobots provide multiple interfaces and are easy to program. So they are very flexible, lightweight, safe and easy to program. As a result, more and more factories are retrofitting their existing production lines with reference to the application scenarios of cobots.
In this case, the client wanted to deploy the cobot at the inspection station, where the dashboard screen stayed on the station for 75 seconds, leaving no room for error. Manual inspection for button and touch screen is required for each product, and only when the product is qualified can it move to the next process. “So far, we perform this task manually”, said the engineering director, “However, it is very difficult to eliminate errors and omissions in manual operation, so we have always wanted to replace manual operation with an automated solution to improve the efficiency and accuracy of product inspection.”
The client deployed a EC63 (3kg load) cobot in the workstation of touch screen quality inspection. When the EC63’s stylus touches the screen, if there is no quality problem, the screen will be moved to the next step. If abnormal condition is detected, the display will show “NG” and a signal light will shine with an alarm sounding, so the operator can immediately notice the situation and fix it in time.
Two EC63 desktop cobots are deployed in the end inspection station, with the left robot performing button inspection and the right robot responsible for touchscreen inspection. The cobots are particularly suitable for automation transformation in restricted space and meet the requirements of curved screen or double-sided screen inspection.
The head of the engineering department said, “To keep employees safe, we have conducted risk assessments in accordance with the company’s safety requirements. For example, when we first introduced EC63, we made some slight adjustments to ensure safety. As cobots can work with higher accuracy and stability than humans, they are still able to meet the schedules of production lines. In addition, the quality of the inspection work has also been improved.”
The entire cycle time from robot delivery, to overall system design, installation and testing, and go-live operation took about 1.5 months. Connecting the robot to external devices, such as PLCs and PCs, was a difficult step. The client said, “After about two weeks of testing, we built our own stand-alone system.” It’s worth noting that Elite and the client worked together to improve the fixture design. After repeated fine-tuning, the adaptability of the fixture touch was improved to support the various touch patterns required for inspection.
Referring to the introduction of the cobot, the supervisor in charge of the inspection station said confidently, “Employees are prone to make mistakes when using the touch screen system, but I am glad that cobots can do the job accurately. Robot can carry out inspection tasks independently, thus contributing to higher productivity. In the event of an abnormal shutdown, the system will sound an alarm and the production technical manager will come and check immediately, so production will not be interrupted and we can be rest assured.”
In fact, cobots have saved the labor cost of 1.5 persons for the user and the investment was recovered within 18 months. As such, the company plans to deploy more cobots in other production lines. “The assembly process has always been labor-intensive. We may deploy robots for those tasks in the future; after all, flexible automation is a major trend for the future.” For the future, it’s not just Elite – the confidence and experience that users gain in practice will bring more inspiration.