April 12, 2012

Robots with laser eyes and suction cup hands boost quality of Louisville Assembly Plant and the all-new Ford Escape

Robots equipped with laser eyes and suction cup hands are helping humans reduce physical strain and save energy, while boosting the quality of the all-new Ford Escape.

Each Escape is in part built by robots first introduced by Ford in Europe, which employ
laser-guided and camera-enabled technology to ensure every new vehicle is built to the highest standard of quality. The machines are programmed to recognise any tiny deviation from specification such as gaps in between door panels or the windshield and the vehicle body. 

“The ability of the machines to register any difference in each vehicle on the line improves our quality by providing a custom-like build,” said Thomas Burns, an Engineer who works with the technology for the Escape.

Robotic arms and other automated machines help simultaneously reduce the exertion level required of human laborers and improve accuracy. 

“Some of the robots work in concert with our line workers to build the Escape more efficiently,” said Marty Smets, an Ergonomics Engineer. “We also have a variety of semiautonomous robots, which do tasks that aren’t safe for humans to do repetitively.” 

For example, robots place the instrument panels, glass, paint and fenders on Escape at Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. Door panels fit more tightly to reduce wind noise, upping the quality of each Escape that rolls off the line. A robotic arm applies the adhesive for windshields to provide consistent, repeatable application and the glass is placed mechanically with suction cups for a perfect fit each time.

In the paint shop, 88 new robots reduce energy costs by more efficiently applying paint and sealer inside the body and to the exterior of the vehicle. Keeping humans out of the zones where the paint is applied reduces airflow and climate control requirements thereby saving energy and reducing carbon emissions. 

More than 700 robots at Louisville Assembly Plant assist in the build of the body and interior of the all-new Escape.


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