We’re not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
Robots have been around for decades, especially in the manufacturing world. When it comes to manufacturing cars, generally speaking the sections where robotic assembly takes place are separated from human-occupied stations for obvious safety reasons. Audi has removed the barriers – or at least some of them – at its Ingolstadt plant so man and machine can work in harmony to assemble A4 and A5 models.
Specifically, a new workstation at the facility that Audi calls “adhesive application with robot assistance” combines a human and a robotic arm to install the optional carbon-fibre reinforced polymer roof on RS5 models. The human places the roof on a spinning table and sets it up for the robot, which is triggered by the human to precisely apply just the right amount of adhesive to specific areas. The robot signals when it’s done, at which point the human picks up the roof and installs it on the car.
That is, unless the robot gets tired of taking orders from its human overlord, at which point it will shoot adhesive into the worker’s eyes then signal Skynet to launch all nuclear missiles.
Actually, that couldn’t happen because there are safety devices built into the system. For starters, the robot only works on command, and even then, sensors in the robot arm can recognize if it comes in contact with a human. Should that happen, the arm immediately stops and a red ring will light up to indicate a disturbance. Because you know, red lights on robots are never, ever an indication that something bad is about to happen.
Audi says the new human/machine station was installed and put into operation in a very short time without any interference to the existing assembly line. Kidding aside, it looks like a pretty slick operation that saves on production costs, and as far as amiable co-workers go, you can’t get much better than a robot. Here’s hoping the human side of the team stays respectful, because it would be a real crime if the robot apocalypse started because a guy in Germany couldn’t keep his trap shut about squeaking joints or slow actuators.