Ford has developed a new self-driving robot that frees up to 40-employee hours daily, allowing workers to undertake more complex tasks.
Nicknamed ‘Survival,’ the robot gains its moniker from being able to adapt to its environment and is the first of its kind to be used at any of the company’s European facilities.
The robot will be primarily used for delivering spare parts around one of Ford’s manufacturing plants, dodging unforeseen objects, changing its route if obstructed and stopping whenever necessary.
“We’ve programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate” says Ford’s Eduardo García Magraner.
Magraner functions as Ford’s engineering manager at its state-of-the-art body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, where the robot is being trialed.
“When it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring as it went by. Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”
Delivering spare parts and welding material to different stations around the plant is a crucial element in keeping Kuga, Mondeo and S-MAX production going, reports Ford.
For workers though, the task is simply too time-consuming and relatively mundane.
According to Ford, Survival doesn’t necessarily replace employees at the plant. It helps saves up to 40-employee hours every day by taking over this role, allowing operators to use their time for more complex tasks.
The robot is equipped with an automated shelf that has 17 slots to hold materials of different weights and sizes.
To avoid errors, the opening and closing of these slots is automated. This allows operators in each area to have access only to those materials assigned to them.
Survival is one of a number of smart robots employed in Ford’s European facilities, including the ‘Robutt’ and co-bots in Cologne, Germany.
The self-driving robot uses LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to visualize its surroundings, which is a lot similar to the technology used in Ford’s prototype autonomous vehicles.
Image and content: Ford