LIVONIA, MI—Artificial intelligence is enabling six-axis robots to assemble transmissions at Ford Motor Co.’s assembly plant here.
Ford is working with Bay-area startup Symbio Robotics on the project. The robots are programmed and managed with Symbio’s robot-agnostic AI software platform, SymbioDCS, to assemble transmissions for the Bronco Sport, Escape and Edge.
Assembly of transmissions is notoriously complex. Previously, operators installed heavy transmission components such as torque converters manually, a challenging process from an ergonomics and safety standpoint. In recent years, the process was automated with robots. Now, Symbio is helping Ford to control the robots with AI, which is enabling the robots to more efficiently install the components into the transmission based on the large amounts of data they have collected. This new process allows the robots to predict how they should assemble components in the next transmission based off of their previous performance.
“Symbio’s focus is on delivering technology that allows companies like Ford to adopt AI as a core competency,” says Max Reynolds, co-founder and CEO of Symbio. “AI-enabled automation looks very different. It’s not just about automation, it’s about providing tools that empower automation teams to deploy and maintain more general, flexible systems.”
Through AI, robots quickly learn and execute tasks, increasing efficiency, improving quality and reducing ergonomic hazards.
“Using the Symbio technology, we’ve observed a 15 percent improvement in cycle time and greater than 50 percent reduction in adapting to new products over the previous manufacturing method,” says Harry Kekedjian, advanced controls and digital factory manager at Ford.
Toyota and Nissan are using the same technology to improve efficiency on their assembly lines.