In the automotive industry, vehicle fog lights have typically been adjusted manually by humans. To provide relief for human workers of this ergonomically-unfriendly task, and to improve the overall adjustment process, Ford VOME (Vehicle Operation Manufacturing Engineering), Dürr Assembly Products and KUKA jointly developed an automated alternative to the conventional process as part of a feasibility study.
While stooped over, the human operator searches for the hard-to-reach opening for the adjusting screws in the bumper area. Once he has found the adjusting screw, he positions the tool on it extremely carefully without damaging the adjustment opening on the bumper.
The solution uses two KUKA LBR iiwa cobots that autonomously adjust the fog lights. In doing so, humans and robots work on the same vehicle without additional safety equipment.
While the human operator adjusts the conventional headlights, the KUKA LBR iiwa cobot adjusts the hard-to-reach fog lights.
Using its joint torque sensors, the LBR iiwa cobots detect contact immediately and reduce their level of force and speed. These characteristics make it possible to work with human operators in confined spaces. And with its servo control, the cobots detect contours quickly under force control.
Using an end effector developed by Dürr, which consists of a camera system and a screwdriver, the KUKA LBR iiwa positions the screwdriver according to the hole coordinates acquired by the camera system. The adjusting screw itself is located approximately 80 mm behind the hole in the bumper. The KUKA LBR iiwa cobot positions the adjustment tool into the screw head.
Redundant safety is provided by the HRC-capable, heavy-duty aluminum gantry from Dürr Assembly Products – on which the KUKA LBR iiwa is positioned in a ride-on installation above the light collecting box directly in front of the headlight to be adjusted.
After the adjustment is finished on one side, the same process is repeated on the other side of the vehicle.
Two KUKA LBR iiwa cobots are already in use in four headlight/driver assistance system test stands for the Ford Focus C519 at the Ford plant in Saarlouis. There are several advantages to using this automated system. First are the aforementioned benefits of reduce strain on human workers from an ergonomically-unfriendly task and improving the quality of the fog light adjustments.
The automated system also creates valuable time savings for by entire light adjustment process. While the foglight on one side is being adjusted by the KUKA LBR iiwa cobot, a human is simultaneously adjusting the main headlight on the other side of the vehicle.
To see more examples about how cobots are helping businesses, check out our Case Study Section.