The FINANCIAL -- Ford is tapping four-legged robots at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant in early August to laser scan the plant, helping engineers update the original computer-aided design which is used when they are getting ready to retool plants. These cutting-edge technologies help save the company money and retool facilities faster. Boston Dynamics sells the devices for $74,500,
These robots can be deployed into tough-to-reach areas within the plant to scan the area with laser scanners and high-definition cameras, collecting data used to retool plants, saving Ford engineers time and money. Ford is leasing two robots, nicknamed Fluffy and Spot, from Boston Dynamics – a company known for building sophisticated mobile robots.
These four-legged dog-like robots can sit, shake hands and roll over. They also can perform 360-degree camera scans, handle 30-degree grades and climb stairs for hours at a time. That’s because they are actually 70-pound quadruped robots with distinctly dog-like mobility. They’re part of a Ford manufacturing pilot program designed to save time, reduce cost and increase efficiency.
“Fluffy” has been equipped with a four-camera scanning device that will create a 3D map of the facility and all of its equipment, to help engineers when they need to redesign it to build new products. Boston Dynamics sells the devices for $74,500, which is around the same price as a Ford Mustang GT500, but Ford is leasing Fluffy and a second unit nicknamed “Spot” for a year, FOX News reported.
The robots, which Ford is piloting at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant, are bright yellow and easily recognizable. Equipped with five cameras, the robots can travel up to 3 mph on a battery lasting nearly two hours and will be used to scan the plant floor and assist engineers in updating the original Computer Aided Design which is utilized when we’re getting ready to retool our plants.
“We design and build the plant. After that, over the years, changes are made that rarely get documented,” says Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager. “By having the robots scan our facility, we can see what it actually looks like now and build a new engineering model. That digital model is then used when we need to retool the plant for new products.”
Without Fluffy, the update would be far more tedious. “We used to use a tripod, and we would walk around the facility stopping at different locations, each time standing around for five minutes waiting for the laser to scan,” Goderis recalls. “Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy’s help, we are able to do it in half the time.”
The old way also was expensive – it cost nearly $300,000 to scan one facility. If this pilot works, Ford’s manufacturing team could scan all its plants for a fraction of the cost. These cutting-edge technologies help save the company money and retool facilities faster, ultimately helping bring new vehicles to market sooner.
The key to Fluffy and Spot’s success is their agility, says Wiebelhaus, who controls her robot through a gaming-like device that allows her to remotely see the camera view. Should an issue occur, Wiebelhaus’ control device features a safe stop that stops it from colliding with anything.
The robots have three operational gaits – a walk for stable ground, an amble for uneven terrain and a special speed for stairs. They can change positions from a crouch to a stretch, which allows them to be deployed to difficult-to-reach areas within the plant. They can handle tough terrain, from grates to steps to 30-degree inclines. If they fall, they can right themselves. They maintain a safe, set distance from objects to prevent collisions.
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification; mobility solutions, including self-driving services; and connected services. Ford employs approximately 188,000 people worldwide.
Recently, it was announced that Ford is recalling about 26 000 cars in North America due to safety issues. For some of the cars airbag system may not perform as intended in some circumstances. Other affected vehicles were built without certain thermal protection components intended to reduce the interior cabin floor and seat attachment temperatures. This is not a first recall for this summer, in June of 2020 Ford has recalled about 2.5 million vehicles. Read more.