In most factories, robots and humans work in strictly separate environments. At Audi, robots and people are now working together for the first time ever on the assembly line. “Hand-in-hand” with humans.
In Audi’s new PART4you workstation, the pick robot hands a work-piece over to the operator, relieving him or her from the need to reach over and bend down to take the part from the material box.
Human‑robot cooperation opens up entirely new possibilities: “The factory of the future will feature increasing interaction between man and machine”, says Dr Hubert Waltl, Board of Management Member for Production at AUDI AG. “That allows us to automate routine operations and to optimize ergonomically unfavourable workplaces.” But also in the future, there will be no factory without people. “People will continue to make the decisions on production processes. And our employees will continue to be essential for future-oriented, successful production.”
In this instance, the robot is an assembly assistant, a co-worker that adapts to the pace of the line operator, and not the other way around, as described at length in the in-depth article “New human-robot cooperation in Audi production processes” published by Audi.
Already more than 500 robots at Audi Brussels
Following positive tests in Germany, robots were fitted to the production line at Audi Brussels this year. They will work closely with the staff. “They assist assembly workers, instead of replacing them.”
For the production of the A1 and S1, more than 500 robots have now been deployed in Brussels. They perform all kinds of tasks. For example, they take care of loading and unloading component containers. They apply joints, clips and adhesive, they weld parts together and carry out checks and monitoring of robot-driven in-line metrology.
Working safely with a robot
The fact that, until now, robots and humans were working separately had a lot to do with safety. Insurers especially are worried about the risk of accidents. “Thanks to a soft protective skin with integrated safety sensors, there is no danger with these robots,” explains Head of the Assembly Technology Development department Johann Hegel to the online Belgian publication Ingeneeringnet. “The technology can also receive the required certificates from the employers’ insurance company as a result.”