To increase productivity within this process a collaborative application incorporating the KUKA LBR iiwa has been developed. The cobot works alongside the operator by fixing bolts into place and reducing process down time. The heart of the application is its internal electrical components and hardware which allow the cobot to communicate with the rest of MINI’s production line, as well as the application tooling for maximum integration. These components are housed in one of Reeco’s Robot Bases which are made bespoke for each project.
The cobot starts its operations by moving into its ‘home safe’ position and waits for the arrival of the part via conveyor, at this stage the cobot will look for signals that the Cleco tools are active, which are now mounted to the cobot arm. When the part arrives, the conveyor sends a signal to the cobot which confirms its arrival along with the size of the part. The cobot then moves into its ‘home fast’ position and awaits further signal that the operator has fitted the anti-roll bar, whilst in this position an output is triggered which temporarily disables conveyor movement so the cobot can work safely. After the anti-roll bar has been fitted the operator returns to their workstation and presses a button to start the process. Starting with the left bolts the cobot moves into position ready for bolt fixing, its positioning over the bolts will signal the Cleco tools to being driving, fixing the bolts. When the tools reach the correct torque, this information is relayed to the cobot allowing it to move on to the right-hand bolts. This same process is repeated and once the right-hand bolts have reached the correct torque, the cobot will move back to the ‘home safe’ position which allows the conveyor to move again. Moreover, the home safe position is assisted by external proximity sensors which constantly monitor the cobots position, ensuring safe operation.
When the anti-roll bar program was produced an additional function was created for the safety configuration of the system. The configuration utilises the KUKA’s ability to be self-aware of its location by placing itself in a virtual cage with several predetermined areas. Each area can be defined individually, for example one area could be a working space and another could be a protected space. This function, along with the ability to monitor the spaces, provides the cobot with information which tells it where it can and can’t operate, thereby preserving the safety of the operator and meeting human-robot collaboration (HRC) requirements ISO/TS 15066:2016.
The integration of this cobot has provided MINI with improved productivity through the utilisation of time after an effective HRC application. Its proven that where factories implement automation solutions they receive a productivity boost, this remains true for MINI as the better utilisation of time has provided them with improved product throughput.