Audi is currently working very hard to prepare its production facilities for the future. While robots have been working in Audi factories for a very long time, they have always been somewhat distant from human colleagues. Now Audi is moving towards completely removing safety barriers between robots and humans, so now a robot and humans work hand in hand in Audi A4/A5 assembly line.
Sometimes a task is too tiring for a person to do and sometimes it requires too much accuracy for a human employee to deal with. For example, people who bought Audi RS 5 Coupe may wish to have a lightweight carbon fibre reinforced polymer roof. It is an expensive panel, which has to be glued into place with extreme precision. While humans can place the roof in its place accurately, applying adhesive is another story. That is the area that Audi decided to improve edging forward for its smart factory vision.
“Adhesive application with robot assistance,” abbreviated from the German as KLARA, is able to apply adhesive to the roof panels extremely precisely. The process itself is streamlined and safe, even though robot and its human co-worker work hand in hand. A person places the carbon‑fibre reinforced polymer roof on a rotary table and tilts it. Then he presses a button, which triggers application of the adhesive and KLARA starts doing its job. Human employee is informed about the progress of operation and has to hold the button until the robot then signals that the roof is ready for installation. Then the person takes the roof, using special holsters, and installs it into a car.
The process is simple and smooth. KLARA is very careful and so no protective fence is needed. Essentially, the working spaces of human and machine blend into one, saving space in the assembly line. This is very beneficial for the factory as well as improves ergonomics of the worker. But, of course, safety is still the top priority, so the worker has a full control at any given moment. Worker has to initiate the process of adhesive application and he can stop it at any given moment. Furthermore, the robot has special sensors and if it touches a human, it will automatically stop, to avoid putting its human colleague in danger.
Interestingly, installation of KLARA in the assembly line was very easy too, because at first robot was mounted on a base plate. This means that the work of normal assembly line was not disturbed in any way. And so Audi is very quickly moving towards its dream factory, where robots and humans cooperate in every step.
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