Background Information and Definitions:
Hard-tooling: The fitting of robots
with a specific piece of equipment that remains a “semi-permanent” part of the
robot and typically enables the robot to complete a highly specific task. If a
robot is hard-tooled, it may be less flexible for performing other tasks. This
is because a robotics tool that is specifically designed to do one task can’t be
used for a different task and likely will not be removed easily or changed
Work-cells: Small, automated stations that may incorporate a robot to
accomplish some specific assembly task and could operate independently or in
conjunction with other work cells. Work cells had been typically fastened
together with long conveyors connecting each work cell in a “transfer line”
arrangement, which expedited mass manufacturing. These cells are now designed
to be more flexible and are assembled as a group of stations, typically in a “U”
shape. This group of cells is often referred to as a lean cell (more
information contained in “detail section”)
Throughput: The amount of completed assemblies that are processed through
a given operation or operations.
Assemblies: Typically a printed circuit board that is in the process of
being populated (small electronic parts installed) or being assembled to a
casting and covers that will house and protect the printed circuit board.
have changed considerably in just the last 10 years. There has been a marked
change from the use of hard-tooled automation to assemble electronics, to a
leaner, more flexible approach that can include using work cells.
In the past, hard
tooling would allow for repeatable operations as robot tooling was built to move
and/or assemble some very specific sizes and shapes of units in very large
quantities for LONG periods of time, perhaps as long as 10 years. Many companies
have re-examined the hard-tooled approach and determined a more efficient and
cost effective way to manufacture electronic components that need to change
every couple of years rather than each decade.
To compensate for this
need to change the robot’s configuration more frequently in electronics
manufacturing, companies have built equipment that will only assemble
electronics boards in a certain form factor for perhaps 1-2 years. To
accomplish this, some companies have utilized workcells that are built to help
assemble electronic assemblies. The work cells must be both flexible and quickly
changeable to allow for reuse as unit shapes and sizes change in short cycles of
time (1-2 years). This process of using a mix of people within a group of
workcells to maintain a flexible manufacturing setting, is a form of lean
This switch in
manufacturing trends addresses some drawbacks to hard tooled automation. This
includes less complex adaptations needed to the automation to keep up with the
changing market, the initial cost of tooling the machines, etc. Given the
direction manufacturing techniques have taken, it is important to consider how
Visteon can utilize robotics to continue to improve quality and throughput
without sacrificing the flexibility desired by lean manufacturing.
When approaching this challenge, you will need to
research the direction manufacturing has taken, particularly the lean
manufacturing concept in the last several years. This will provide a better
understanding of how humans are utilized in this concept. For example, each
time a person touches an electronic device, there is additional risk to the
integrity of the part by doing harm to the electronics, yet there is no value
added to the part. Think about how Visteon can utilize a given robot more
effectively to make the robot more like a person such that we can increase
quality and efficiency of the workcell and also reduce the number of times that
a human touches the electronic components.
Typical Manufacturing Workcell Details:
Individual workcells that are placed together to
create a complete “lean cell” may do some of the following operations:
- Dispensing of sealants, coatings, etc
- Pick/Place to ovens, etc.
- Vision Inspection
These workcells are typically placed next to one
another in order of operation in a “U” shape with a small space between so as to
allow access to the cells for maintenance. This is limited to minimize the
loop size that the lean cell operator must walk to move the units from station
to station. Although a lean cell varies in the number of workcells it
contains and therefore ultimately it’s “U” shaped dimension, consider an
average lean cell to have between 8 and 12 work cells with a “U” shaped
dimension of approximately 40 ft x 60 ft. Consider these lean cell dimensions
when you create a plan using the specified robot below.
Robotics apparatus to be used:
Students should plan to utilize the Adept 3-300
or 6-600 model robot which is a six axis robot that is more easily programmed to
simulate the tasks of a human being used in a lean manufacturing environment.
Students may also utilize the idea of a six axis robot mounted on a linear axis.
See resource section for suggested websites describing the Adept robots.
- Design of a "hand" to be mounted to
the robot that can pick up any size or shape of an electronic assembly that
could easily be moved by a human.
- Design of a vision process to allow
the robot to be more flexible in terms of picking up different shapes/sizes,
and doing quality inspections at the same time.
- Design of a communications protocol
to allow multiple robots to work together in a lean cell. Examples: Synthetic
Suggested Research Areas: (Stayed tuned for
Business Case Considerations – A Business Case
should address certain key items including assumptions and risks, short and long
term goals, monetary requirements, as well as how we might quantify the return
on investment. A summary that details your recommendations is desirable.
Technical Considerations – Technical
considerations should include whether this is an enhancement of an existing
technology, or a completely new concept. If it is unproven, provide details as
to why this idea will work, as well as why it will enhance our position in
manufacturing. Provide as much data to support the concept’s viability as
Sheet will be used but
also be judged on the basis of:
- Feasibility of the idea
- Cost of the idea
- Does the idea work within the scope
and direction that lean manufacturing is taking us?
submissions must be received by
January 28, 2005.
will be notified of their status by