The automotive industry has reached a density of one robot per every six workers.
Moving heavy materials, exposed to high and low temperatures, precise finishes such as paint and welding, for mentioning a few, repetitive activities such as loading and unloading of a component in a working station, are some of the programmable tasks of robots within the automotive industry.
Going back in history, robot comes from the Czech word robota, which means forced labor or worker, same that was translated into English as robot.
“Robotics started more than 2,500 years ago, with simple mechanisms, there were no engines or electronics, but they were mechanically acted. Robotics was created to no expose humans, in fact, those are the rules to introduce a robot into the industry, a fourth law is that a robot do not substitute or put out of work,” said Rolando Cruz, professor at the School of Engineering and Sciences from the Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus San Luis Potosi.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY, PIONEER IN ROBOTIC INVESTMENT
It was until 1961 when the first industrial robot was installed in an assembly chain of General Motors at the Inland Fisher Guide Plant (New Jersey.) In the last years, automation is increasingly becoming a robotization worldwide; the automotive industry has reached a density of one robot per every six workers.
“Definitively the automotive industry is pioneer and is of the ones investing in this kind of technology, by being constantly investing in technology development, in process innovation, are of the main consumers of this kind, here in San Luis we have General Motors and BMW are the companies that implement more robots on their processes,” said Jorge Lopez, general manager of Potencia Industrial Automatizacion y Servicios Industriales (PIASISA.)
There were less than one million industrial robots only in 2005 around the world, currently there are about 3,000,000 of industrial robots worldwide, and statistics from the International Federation of Robots points out that most of them are within the automotive industry.
“Mexico is one of the first main buyers of industrial robots worldwide, that tell us the level of automation being reached by the Mexican Industry, with the exception of the automotive industry factories in Mexico use machinery manufactured more than 20 years ago, or use obsolete technology developed in the 70’s, therefore there is a very big opportunity to replace these machines by robots,” shared Jose Luis Villalon, director of Target Robotics.
Nowadays assemblers such as General Motors, BMW, Nissan, Mazda, among others, have implemented robots on their production lines for the welding, paint, assembly, body works areas, this thanks to that they have high precision and repetitiveness in processes.
“Annual sales of industrial robots have increased exponentially in the last years; from 2017 to 2018 they increased almost 30 percent, reaching 380,000 robots sold in 2018. In 2020, it is expected to exceed the amount of 520,000 industrial robots sold,” said Jose Luis Villalon.
TYPES OF ROBOTS WITHIN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
Rolando Cruz said that articulated robots are the most common within the vehicles industry, but there are also other robots known as delta type parallel, which are implemented for having better movement and work at high speeds.
“There are robotic arms with a loading capability that goes from 500 grams; however, robots arms from the Industry can transport up to a ton and are used to move an automobile chassis.
Meanwhile, Jorge Lopez said that the most common robots in the industry are the Cartesian and collaborative. The first is one of the most basic, since through a Cartesian plan a robot arm is moved in two or three axis and from there, it elaborates a function repetitively.
While the collaborative characterizes for being light, flexible and easy to settle. They are designed specially to interact with humans in a shared working space without the need of installing safety fences.
SLP IS SLOWLY MIGRATING TO NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Every time conventional machinery is replaced by a robotic component is shown that process productivity can be increased.
Jose Luis Villalon indicated that for the last ten years in San Luis Potosi it has been developed exponentially and most industries that come to settle in the State are using robots in all their processes. This has placed the entity in fourth place in Mexico with installed robots.
“Mexican Industry in general cannot automatize its processes with imported systems it is only possible to reach investment profits if it is automated with Mexican engineering costs,” he said.
Before implementing robots arms within the Potosi industry, Jorge Lopez explained that the first machines installed were programmable logical controllers, and from there, new technologies have been developed.
“Practically they have been implemented in all productive processes at least here in the State. It has been a success because it helps improving the productive processes and, mainly, it allows you to make other kind of more precise functions.
WHICH IS THE FOLLOWING STEP?
Current robots arms work in controlled environments and execute very precise actions that have been programmed by an engineer, this action is sought to be replicated in SLP companies in a future, with the objective of improving productive areas.
That is why the next step is to prepare new engineers generations, starting with basic programming knowledge, in PLCs as well as servo drives, electric plans and electric diagrams interpretation.
“It is believed that it practically has to be a person well prepared in robotics area, and in fact what is needed is software and programming training, currently robots are easy to program and include robotic arms in the industry will help them much to improve any activity productive process,” said Jorge Lopez, from PIASISA.
Institutions, Government and companies are working together to develop the new talents, aiming to Mexico have high level researchers that can fulfill these technologies and that enter into mechanics, electronics, programming, among others.
“At the Campus we have industrial robots type ABB, they are also of six grades of freedom, speeds of two meters per second, we have Mitsubishi Japanese robots, and we also have mechanisms, for example humanoids robots, then the student has formations in theory as well as in practice with industrial robots and with service robots, since it is sought that in the future Mexico manufactures its own robots,” ended the professor from Tec de Monterrey, Campus San Luis Potosi.