What is Automotive Manufacturing?

    Automotive manufacturing can be defined as the production of an automobile by the use of humans and robots together to efficiently produce the automobile.  The production of automobiles began in Europe in the early 1800's ("Automotive History" 1).  When it came to the United States around the time of World War II hundred's of thousands of pattens started being issued because many people were creating new ideas and products for the automobile.  In 1901 the Curve Dash Oldsmobile, built by Ransome Eli Olds,  became the first car that was mass produced ("History of the Automobile" 8).  In 1913 Henry Ford invented the conveyor belt-based assembly line to produce his Model T.  In 14 short years Ford was able to successfully mass produce and distribute 15 million Model T's. 

     Today the production of automobiles is much more complicated and a most of the work is done by robots to ensure precision and to do the job right the first time.  Automobiles are mostly made in the factory from the ground up.  Normally the first part to be placed on the assembly line is the chassis which everything else is originated around.  Robots are very expensive but very helpful products in the automotive industry.  These robots are mainly used for welding, painting, and lifting/moving.  The majority of automobile manufacturers have eliminated as much human labor as possible to save money and eliminate the risk of human error. 

What are Robots?

     According to howstuffworks.com, "robots are man-made versions of animal life, and are machines that replicate human and animal behaviors."  Robots are used in the manufacturing of automobiles because they can lift hundreds of pounds and deliver it to the desired location with ease.  They can do this motion twenty-four hours a day without becoming fatigued.  The only maintenance could be changing or adding hydraulic oil, or replacing parts that could ware out over time.   Although robots do the majority of the work in assembly lines, robots are designed to work in collaboration with human workers ("Modern Automobile Manufacturing" 5).  Even though the robots are developed to work in collaboration with humans they are also designed to run in sync with other robots ("Production..." 2).  High performance software is an option that manufacturers can take advantage of when deciding how to control their robots.  If the high performance software is used the robots will communicate better and be a lot easier to maintain and supervise.  The robots all communicate through and Ethernet connection.  Ethernet is the most common type of connection computers use in a local area network (LAN).  The communication that the robots do is not like human conversations but is more like commands.  For example: say that one robot is carrying a part down the assembly line and when it gets to a certain point, another robot is supposed to grab it and put it on the car.  When the robot that is carrying the part reaches its programmed destination it sends a signal to the other robot telling it to come take the part from it.  All of these commands are programmed into the software by a human.  This is how humans remain control over robots because robots do not do anything unless the robot is programmed to do so.  Robots save automobile manufacturers a lot of time and money.  They do this by eliminating human error.  When a robot does the job right the first time, there is no need for the manufacturer to purchase another part because the robot made a mistake.  If a human makes a mistake the company has to purchase another part to replace the one that the human ruined.  Even though a robot is programmed to do the job correctly the first time, manufacturing companies still higher quality checkers to ensure that the robot is doing its job correctly and efficiently. 
     Robots can do things that humans can not do ("Services and Benefits" 1).  When a vehicle is being manufactured robots move the car down the assembly line which would take many different human employees to do.  Vehicles are very heavy machines and it would take humans longer to push the car around the assembly line.  These employees would be very tired at the end of the day and would have to work in different shifts to ensure that they would not become fatigued.  Robots also make it possible for the vehicles to be rotated in order to install certain parts or weld pieces together.  It is physically impossible for a human to rotate a car by themselves.  It only takes one robot to rotate the car and one robot to accomplish the task.  Since robots are not paid for their time or their labor that is used this saves the company a lot of money.  It only takes one person to control the robot that is doing the job instead of ten humans to move the car and to perform the task.  Robots are often used to weld the metal together on the vehicle.  It takes a very experienced and very skilled human to apply a perfect weld on the vehicle every time.  It only takes one correctly programmed robot to do the job to apply a weld that is perfect numerous times and to do it all day long.  Another benefit of robots are that they never go on vacation.  Human employees are a risk to companies.  Some employees do not show up to work, get sick, or take vacation leaving the company to find a replacement.  If an employee has to work a double shift they would become very fatigued and would not perform as well as they did in their main shift.  This would increase the risk of injury or poor performance in the factory.  Robots never leave the factory and just have to be turned on in order to do their job.  Robots are cleaned and maintained on a regular schedule in order to keep them running normally and to avoid the chance of the robot breaking or malfunctioning. 

Types of Robots

Welding Robot

The automotive industry is a major user of robotic spot welders ("Industrial Robots" 1).  Robotic welders play a vital role in the automotive manufacturing process.  Robotic welders apply a perfect weld every time and so it in a short period of time.  The time it would take a human to apply a perfect weld and to do it consistently would be more than twice that of a robot.  The two basic types of welding that are applied on a vehicle are spot welding and arc welding.  Spot welding is a type of resistance welding that is used to bind different types of sheet metal.  It applies weld in the shape of a bead in the crease of the two sheets of metal.  Numerous beads are applied to the sheet metal to ensure that the joining of the metal is strong enough to withstand the forces that may be applied to it when the vehicle is finished("Robot Spot Welding" 2).
One problem when welding with robots is that the cables and hoses used for current and air tend to limit the capacity of movement of the robot wrist.  The solution that was thought up was a swivel.  It allows the passage of the required contents to pass in a single rotating unit.  Arc welding uses an electrical power supply to create an electric arc between the welder and the material being welded("Robot Arc Welding" 3).  Arc welding is widely used because it is a very inexpensive way to apply the weld to the metal.  Arc welding melts the two metals that are being combined together which is a very strong type of welding.  This kind of welding is used on the chassis and other areas that will encounter a lot of stress.  A special kind of electrical power is required to make an arc weld. The special power is provided by a welding machine, also known as a power source. All arc welding processes use an arc welding gun or torch to transmit welding current from a welding cable to the electrode. They also provide for shielding the weld area from the atmosphere.  The nozzle of the torch is close to the arc and will gradually pick up spatter. A torch cleaner is often used to remove the spatter. All of the continuous electrode wire arc processes require an electrode feeder to feed the consumable electrode wire into the arc.   Welding fixtures and workpiece manipulators hold and position parts to ensure precise welding by the robot. The productivity of the robot welding cell is sped up by having an automatically rotating or switching fixture, so that the operator can be fixing one set of parts while the robot is welding another.

Robot Spray Painters

     Robots have made the art of painting a vehicle into something that is as simple as programming a robot.  The quality of work that is applied to the car is unmatchable by a human.  The robot sprays a certain amount of paint per second which eliminates the chance of runs in the paint.  Having a painting robot prevents human workers from coming into contact with the harmful fumes that paint contains which makes it a safer working environment.  Painting robots can paint more cars per day than any human employee could.  It equally distributes every coat of painting to ensure an almost perfect finish every time.  Many different colors can be applied to cars with the robots available today.  To change the color of paint the operator of the robot types in code which tells the robot to switch colors.  A different color of paint is loaded into the robot and the lines are cleaned.  The lines are cleaned by spraying a cleaning liquid through the spray gun lines to ensure a uniform color on the car.  Painting robots save manufacturing company's a lot of money and time that would be wasted by a human employee.  The room that the cars are being painted in is a very well ventilated room in which the excess paint is removed by a vacuum system.  The room is air tight to ensure that no foreign particles enter the room and attach themselves to the freshly painted car.

Robotic Movers

     Whenever a part is moved down the assembly line a robot is doing the moving.  Robots are able to lift thousands of pounds of dead weight.  They are driven by a hydraulic pump and can outperform a human employee in terms of lifting.  Since robots do all of the heavy lifting human employees are spared when it comes to muscle strains and other lifting injuries.  Automated robotic lifters make jobs possible that would be considered impossible without the assistance of a robot.  As I mentioned above cars have to be rotated in order to apply certain parts or for other robots to make a weld.  If a human were to have this job they would have to jack up one side of the car and the process would take much longer than it takes to simply type commanding code into a computer.


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