In 1913, Henry Ford revolutionized car-making with the primary transferring meeting line, an innovation that made piecing collectively new automobiles quicker and extra environment friendly. Some hundred years later, Ford is now utilizing synthetic intelligence to eke extra pace out of right this moment’s manufacturing traces.
At a Ford Transmission Plant in Livonia, Michigan, the station the place robots assist assemble torque converters now features a system that makes use of AI to study from earlier makes an attempt the way to wiggle the items into place most effectively. Inside a big security cage, robotic arms wheel round greedy round items of metallic, every concerning the diameter of a dinner plate, from a conveyor and slot them collectively.
Ford makes use of expertise from a startup known as Symbio Robotics that appears on the previous few hundred makes an attempt to find out which approaches and motions appeared to work greatest. A pc sitting simply exterior the cage reveals Symbio’s expertise sensing and controlling the arms. Toyota and Nissan are utilizing the identical tech to enhance the effectivity of their manufacturing traces.
The expertise permits this a part of the meeting line to run 15 p.c quicker, a major enchancment in automotive manufacturing the place skinny revenue margins rely closely on manufacturing efficiencies.
“I personally assume it will be one thing of the long run,” says Lon Van Geloven, manufacturing supervisor on the Livonia plant. He says Ford plans to discover whether or not to make use of the expertise in different factories. Van Geloven says the expertise can be utilized anyplace it’s doable for a pc to study from feeling how issues match collectively. “There are many these purposes,” he says.
AI is usually considered as a disruptive and transformative expertise, however the Livonia torque setup illustrates how AI could creep into industrial processes in gradual and infrequently imperceptible methods.
Automotive manufacturing is already closely automated, however the robots that assist assemble, weld, and paint automobiles are basically highly effective, exact automatons that endlessly repeat the identical activity however lack any capacity to know or react to their environment.
Including extra automation is difficult. The roles that stay out of attain for machines embrace duties like feeding versatile wiring by means of a automobile’s dashboard and physique. In 2018, Elon Musk blamed Tesla Mannequin 3 manufacturing delays on the choice to rely extra closely on automation in manufacturing.
Researchers and startups are exploring methods for AI to present robots extra capabilities, for instance enabling them to understand and grasp even unfamiliar objects transferring alongside conveyor belts. The Ford instance reveals how present equipment can typically be improved by introducing easy sensing and studying capabilities.