September 01, 2013      

FORBES & CANADIAN MANUFACTURING — Volkswagen has integrated an industrial robotic arm from Denmark’s Universal Robots to collaborate directly with employees at a Volkswagen plant in Salzgitter, Germany.

UR5 at Volkswagen

This is the first collaborative robot in use at Volkswagen worldwide. The six-axis robotic arm has an integrated safety mode, which allows it to collaborate directly with people without any protective guards which optimizes the ergonomic working processes in the plant.

The robotic arm inserts delicate glow plugs into cylinder heads and collaborates directly with people without any safety barriers, contributing significantly towards optimizing ergonomic working processes.

Without the robots, the process is an ergonomic nightmare, forcing workers to insert the glow plugs in a stooping posture into the scarcely visible cylinder head drill holes.

The Volkswagen plant in Salzgitter, with an area over 3M square feet is one of the largest engine production plants in the world. Some 6,000 employees manufacture approximately 7,000 three-cylinder to 16-cylinder gas and diesel engines in more than 370 variations every day.

The robotic arm’s integrated safety mode (matching Standard EN ISO 10218), clears it to work in the close vicinity of humans.

It is equipped with a collaborative gripper, which the system integrator Faude Automatisie-rungstechnik has developed exclusively for Volkswagen and which meets the safety requirements of ISO/TS 15066, the specification standard for collaborating robots. Thus the robot was able to be integrated into the production line without additional protective housing.

“We would like to prevent long-term burdens on our employees in all areas of our company with an ergonomic workplace layout,” explained Jurgen Hafner, project manager at Volkswagen’s Salzgitter plant.

“By using robots without guards, they can work hand-in-hand together with the robots. In this way, the robot becomes a production assistant in manufacture and as such can release staff from ergonomically unfavorable work.”

The project was implemented over a period of two years in close collaboration with Universal Robots? distributor partner Faude Automatisierungstechnik.