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Ford testing use of collaborative robots on assembly line; Industry 4.0

Ford Motor is using new collaborative robots (co-bots) to help workers fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars, a task that requires accuracy, strength, and a high level of dexterity. Employees work hand-in-hand with the robots to ensure a perfect fit. The trial at Ford’s assembly plant in Cologne, Germany, is part of the company’s investigations into Industry 4.0.

Measuring a little more than 3 feet high, the new robots work hand-in-hand with the line workers at two work stations. Rather than manipulate a heavy shock absorber and installation tool, workers can now use the robot to lift and automatically position the shock absorber into the wheel arch, before pushing a button to complete installation.

Equipped with high-tech sensors, the co-bots stop immediately if they detect an arm or even a finger in their path, ensuring worker safety. Similar technology also is used in the pharmaceutical and electronics industries. Developed over two years, the robot program was carried out in close partnership with German robot manufacturer, KUKA Roboter GmbH.

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