“It uses perception and mapping so;ware capability, and doesn’t require any
cables, tracks, or magnetic strips,” Hennessey explained, “and so no additional
infrastructure is required when implementing the system.”
System management occurs through a so;ware platform that communicates
with the SDV via wifi. The SDV operates as a self-contained unit. The only ele-
ment not on the vehicle is the battery charger. The vehicle even drives itself to
the charging dock, plugs in, and starts charging automatically.
Krus said he next plans for the robot to be used to make parts for another
Hirotec product line. These are products the company currently outsources to
local suppliers, but by automating the process, Krus said he will be able to lower
costs enough so that it makes sense to produce those products in-house.
“A lot of the suppliers actually have these parts shipped in from China before
they sell them to us,” Krus said. “I’d rather make them in the U.S.”
Once this last phase is validated, the mobile robot will not only be working
on its current black oxide operation, but it will also be changing fixtures and
loading parts into a specific workcell, then taking the parts and delivering them
to the next stage of production. “The next project will have the robot operate
two cells,” Krus explained, “the first being the black oxide and the second being
a [gas metal arc] welding cell. At the second cell, the robot will remove flexible
fixture units and place them in storage; pick up new units and install them to the
fixture; then pick up parts to be loaded to the fixture. Once the part is welded
together, it will be removed and the process will be repeated.”
Where else could Hirotec implement this technology? “Anywhere you have
a repetitive act,” Krus said. “If we have a lot of variation, we’ll need extensive
machine vision. Essentially, I see it taking on these jobs to free up our talented
workforce to do more important things.”
Could versions of this technology apply to material handling in sheet metal
fabrication? Krus reiterated that it depends on how repetitive and repeatable
the task is—loading one part or part family time a;er time in a welding cell, car-
rying blanks from a laser to the press brake. As always, it will depend on the
application specifics. But down the road, SDVs could help a fabricator get more
work-in-process parts on the move.
Senior Editor Tim Heston can be reached at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of OTTO Motors, 844-733-6886, www.ottomotors.com.
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