According to the Volkswagen Group, the collaboration between humans and robots is becoming more and more important. The main objective is to increase the production’s efficiency and ergonomics.
MIRCO (the “Mobile Intelligence Robotic COworker”) is an intelligent, and even friendly, robot. It greets its colleagues with its mechanical arm – but that is just for show. In fact, its mission is much more technical and specific: in the near future, MIRCO will have to support the technicians on the assembly line, following their instructions. It will transport components to the production line and hand them over along with the tools needed using its sensitive arms and hands. MIRCO’s functionalities are the first of their kind, because they allow MIRCO both coarse and fine motor skills, thanks to the proper interpretation of commands given by gestures keeping out of the way of its flesh-and-blood coworkers on the assembly line. It can handle parts weighing up to 5 kg and then bolt them on with great precision, using its strong and, at the same time, delicate hands. And if the working space gets tight, it automatically slows down its movements in order to maintain a high level of security. This is made possible by five computers and numerous cameras inside and over MIRCO’s body.
The Volkswagen Group’s goal is to make production ever-more efficient and ergonomic, with clear benefits both for customers and employees. To achieve it, the Group is implementing artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things in its production, strengthening its IT expertise and promoting digitalisation within its global network. Moreover, an interdisciplinary and international team working in the Smart Production Lab in Wolfsburg is developing software solutions and AI systems for tomorrow’s plants. It is fundamental to integrate IT know-how and engineering expertise: for this reason, the team spends a great deal of time directly on the production line in order to understand the actual requirements and then to develop genuinely effective software solutions.
Aside from MIRCO, artificial intelligence has several other applications – in the receiving area, for example. The IT experts from the Smart Production Lab are developing a connected camera platform that runs on the Volkswagen Group cloud. Users can connect up a wide variety of devices, such as thermal imaging, object recognition, or industrial cameras. Image processing is based on artificial intelligence. It allows, for example, the encoding of bar codes for delivery parts or the facial recognition for surveillance in sensitive areas. All with a single software solution.
Another example is the driverless transport systems (DTS) used in many of the Group’s plants, which move components and accessories around the facility both accurately and punctually. The next step? Implementing a digital director, currently under development, that steers all the DTS vehicles in real time. If there is a problem with a vehicle –due to a technical malfunction or an external factor – the other DTS vehicles can be completely resynchronized in just a few seconds. One of the most useful applications that the IT experts in the Smart Production:Lab are currently working on is the so-called “predictive maintenance” – this uses software capable of monitoring the torque, pressure and other parameters of a gluing machine in order to give a timely prognosis of potential failures. This is cost efficient and helps to keep the factory running smoothly.
Source: Volkswagen AG