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Sunday, Aug 01, 2021

Ford will use 'robot dogs' to create a digital model of its manufacturing plants

Ford will begin using two dog-like robots in August to scan one of its manufacturing plants in the United States with laser and camera scans and generate a digital image of the facility, making it easier to install new equipment.
Ford has named the two robots, produced by the company Boston Dynamics, Fluffy and Spot, two common names for dogs in North America.

The two robots, equipped with four legs and weighing 32 kilos, can traverse the facilities at a maximum speed of 1.6 kilometers per hour. The autonomy of the batteries allows them to work for two hours before needing a recharge.

Ford said the pilot program at the Van Dyke transmission plant could be expanded to other company facilities, since using the robots brings significant financial savings.

Mark Goderis, Ford's digital engineering manager, said in a statement that Ford plants over the years are modified to accommodate new needs.

Over the years, those changes are almost never documented. By having robots scan the facility, we can see how they are today and produce a new engineering model. That digital model is used when we need to retrofit the plant, said the statement

The traditional way to produce a digital model is to use a laser mounted on a tripod, wait five minutes to scan the area, and move the tripod to another part of the facility to perform the same process.

Using the robots will allow Ford to halve the time it takes to scan Van Dyke's transmission plant, from two weeks to one. In addition, the traditional method involves an outlay of $300,000. With Fluffy and Spot the price drops to a fraction, Ford said.

The two Boston Dynamics robots can operate on stable ground, on uneven terrain, with slopes of up to 30 degrees of inclination, and can even climb stairs. They can also crawl and reduce their height to reach hard-to-reach areas.

Automakers need to retrofit their plants to produce new models or new generations of existing models.

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