Canadian Manufacturing

At Volkswagen, robots and humans work hand-in-hand

The robotic arm's integrated safety mode, which meets Standard EN ISO 10218, clears it to work in the close vicinity of humans.

ODENSE, Denmark & SALZGITTER, Germany—Car manufacturer Volkswagen has begun operating its first first collaborative robot into mass production at its engine production plant in Salzgitter, Germany.

The six-axis robotic arm from the Danish manufacturer Universal Robots inserts delicate glow plugs into cylinder heads and collaborates directly with people without any safety barriers, contributing significantly towards optimizing ergonomic working processes.

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 of 2,800,000 square metres, 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.

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 Automatisierungstechnik 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. By using robots without guards, they can work together hand in hand with the robot. In this way, the robot becomes a production assistant in manufacture and as such can release staff from ergonomically unfavorable work,” explains Jürgen Häfner, project manager at Volkswagen’s Salzgitter plant.

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

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