Mobile Robots for Moving-Floor Assembly Lines: Design, Evaluation and Deployment

TitleMobile Robots for Moving-Floor Assembly Lines: Design, Evaluation and Deployment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsUnhelkar, V. V., S. Dörr, A. Bubeck, P. A. Lasota, J. Perez, H. Chit Siu, J B. C. Jr., Q. Tyroller, J. Bix, S. Bartscher, and J. A. Shah
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine
AbstractWe present the first mobile robot system designed for and capable of operating on the moving floors of automotive final assembly lines (AFALs) alongside human workers. AFALs represent a distinct challenge for mobile robots in the form of dynamic surfaces: the conveyor belts that transport cars throughout the factory during final assembly. In this work, we identify the key behaviors necessary for autonomous navigation along dynamic surfaces, develop a control strategy to achieve trajectory tracking on such surfaces, and design a sensing module capable of detecting conveyor belt speed and location in a factory setting. These solutions are integrated with localization, path planning and car tracking to achieve autonomous navigation. The system is implemented via Rob@Work 3 and Robot Operating System, and evaluated on an operational automotive factory floor. A mobile robot capable of working on moving floors (conveyor belts) alongside human associates can provide greater flexibility when designing automotive manufacturing processes, yielding ergonomic benefit for users, improving task performance and efficiency, and opening avenues for novel application of robotics.
Refereed DesignationRefereed