It moves by itself through the different departments, without magnetic tracks or any other external assistance, and can even change its route when necessary: it is the first fully autonomous robot used by ŠKODA at the Vrchlabí plant.
Creating the mobility of the future does not just mean designing innovative products, but also changing the way in which they are built. To do so, it is necessary to go beyond traditional industrial concepts and adopt those of Industry 4.0. The digitalisation of the production processes is behind this transformation, and all of the Volkswagen Group’s brands are working towards it: a concrete example can be found at the ŠKODA plant in Vrchlabí, Czech Republic, where a fully autonomous transport system has been put into service - a robot able to guide itself without any external intervention.
It is the most recent stage in the evolution of an apparently simple and repetitive task, which previously required the constant attention of a human being but has been gradually modified with the use of automated transport systems based on magnetic strips installed below the floor or other specific infrastructure.
Robots like the one used by ŠKODA can carry a load of up to 130 kg and are able to recognise any obstacles along their route, modifying it as a result – and in real time – on the basis of the information they receive from the surrounding environment. This means that transporting material within the site is not only quicker, but also and above all safer.
To learn the route, the vehicle only needs to be guided between the stations once via a tablet or joystick, then it is able to run completely autonomously. This is thanks to its sophisticated, state-of-the-art technology: using sensors and laser scanners, it recognises vehicles and stationary obstacles as well as people crossing its path. The control system calculates the approach speed and detects if a collision is imminent. In this case, the robot stops by itself or takes evasive action. If it encounters the same obstacle more than once, it changes its route permanently.
The new ŠKODA robot is fully electric and has sufficient range to travel to all of the destinations at the Vrchlabí plant, which covers 16,000 square metres. The robot completes 120 trips per day and travels a total distance of 35 km on its route between the mechanical measuring centre and the processing machines.
The Czech brand also uses other robots at the Vrchlabí plant, in particular for the production of transmissions. In this case, the machines support the specialised technicians in one of the most delicate operations – inserting the gear actuator piston. Other robots also supply dozens of machines with the necessary parts and return empty containers to the warehouse.
Increases in production at ŠKODA mean higher utilised capacity for the plants and, inevitably, more traffic in the production areas. In this context, the role of the fully autonomous robot is even more significant, contributing to the continuous improvement of work safety in Vrchlabí and helping to minimise risks and hazards.
Source: ŠKODA Auto