Image credits: Ford Motor Corporation
News Article

Dog-Like Robots to Easily Scan Facilities

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 07/28/2020 - 09:16

Scanning a facility can take time, money and human resources. Ford is aiming to make this process more efficient through the use of dog-like robots with 360-degree camera scans. "This cutting-edge technology allow Ford Motor Company engineers to save money, retool facilities faster and bring new vehicles to market sooner," said Mark Goderis, Ford's Digital Engineer Manager on a statement.

The four-legged dog-like robots can actually sit, shake hands and roll over while performing 360-degree camera scans, handling 30-degree slopes and climb stairs. The robots weigh 70lb (31.75kg) and can travel up to 3mph (4.83km/hr). The robots can be programmed to follow a specific path and they can be controlled remotely a 50m range. Moreover, if they fall, they can stand by themselves. The devices are leased from Boston Dynamics, a company known for building sophisticated mobile robots. 

"We are utilizing them to do laser scans of our facility. Those images are then utilized by our engineers to develop new vehicle programs and it allows them to develop a more accurate layout of our facilities," said Goderis. A scanning process usually implies walking around the facility with a tripod, stopping at different points and waiting five minutes for the laser to scan. According to Goderis, scanning a facility can cost around US$300,000 and the human team can take around two weeks. With the robot, they expect to do it in just one week at a fraction of the cost.

A faster scanning process will allow not only money savings but also retooling facilities faster, which will ultimately bring new models to the market sooner. Fluffy and Spot, the names their handlers have given them, will build the digital model while updating the original CAD for Ford's Van Dyke transmission plant. This model is the one that is used when retooling. 

This is a pilot program that has the potential to be replicated throughout Ford plants in the US. "The intent is to be able to operate the robots remotely, programming them for plant missions and receiving reports immediately from anywhere in the country," said Goderis. Fluffy and Spot are particularly useful when approaching areas that can be tough to maneuver.

In the race to cut costs and have more efficient operations, will manufacturing plants adopt new pets?

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst