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Ford Experiments with Four-Legged Robots to Scout Factories

Auto News - Published on Thu, 06 Aug 2020

Image Source: Ford Van Dyke Transmission Plant Fluffy Robot
Ford is tapping four-legged robots at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant in early August to laser scan the plant, helping engineers update the original computer-aided design which is used when we are getting ready to retool our plants. These robots can be deployed into tough-to-reach areas within the plant to scan the area with laser scanners and high-definition cameras, collecting data used to retool plants, saving Ford engineers time and money. Ford is leasing two robots, nicknamed Fluffy and Spot, from Boston Dynamics, a company known for building sophisticated mobile robots

These four-legged dog-like robots can sit, shake hands and roll over. They also can perform 360 degree camera scans, handle 30-degree grades and climb stairs for hours at a time. That’s because they are actually 70-pound quadruped robots with distinctly dog-like mobility. They’re part of a Ford manufacturing pilot program designed to save time, reduce cost and increase efficiency.

Fluffy, the name given by the robot’s handler Paula Wiebelhaus, is one of the two models Ford is leasing from Boston Dynamics, known for creating sophisticated mobile robots. The other Ford robot is named Spot after the product’s actual name.

The robots, which Ford is piloting at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant, are bright yellow and easily recognizable. Equipped with five cameras, the robots can travel up to 3 mph on a battery lasting nearly two hours and will be used to scan the plant floor and assist engineers in updating the original Computer Aided Design which is utilized when we’re getting ready to retool our plants.

The robots have three operational gaits, a walk for stable ground, an amble for uneven terrain and a special speed for stairs. They can change positions from a crouch to a stretch, which allows them to be deployed to difficult-to-reach areas within the plant. They can handle tough terrain, from grates to steps to 30-degree inclines. If they fall, they can right themselves. They maintain a safe, set distance from objects to prevent collisions.

The old way also was expensive, it cost nearly USD 300,000 to scan one facility. If this pilot works, Ford’s manufacturing team could scan all its plants for a fraction of the cost. These cutting-edge technologies help save the company money and retool facilities faster, ultimately helping bring new vehicles to market sooner.

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Posted By : Yogender Pancholi on Thu, 06 Aug 2020
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