OEM : Automotive
Ford is a family company, one that spans the globe and has shared ideals. We value service to each other and the world as much as to our customers. Generations have made their memories with us and included us in their hopes and dreams. After 117 years, we’re used to adapting to and leading change. That’s why we’re evolving to focus on services, experiences and software as well as vehicles.
Ford Operates 3D Printers Autonomously
At Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center here, Javier is tasked with operating the 3D printers completely on his own. He is always on time, very precise in his movements, and he works most of the day. He never takes a lunch break or a coffee break—he doesn’t even ask for a paycheck. Javier is an autonomous mobile robot from KUKA, and he’s integral to the company’s development of an industry-first process to operate 3D printers with little or no human intervention.
Typically, different pieces of equipment from various suppliers are unable to interact because they do not run the same communication interface. Ford developed an application interface program that allows different pieces of equipment to speak the same language and send constant feedback to each other. For example, the Carbon 3D printer tells the KUKA autonomous mobile robot when the printed product will be finished, then the robot lets the printer know it has arrived and is ready to pick up parts. This innovative communication is what makes the whole process possible.
Ford rolls out autonomous robot-operated 3D printers in vehicle production
Leveraging an in-house-developed interface, Ford has managed to get the KUKA-built bot to ‘speak the same language’ as its other systems, and operate them without human interaction. So far, the firm’s patent-pending approach has been deployed to 3D print custom parts for the Mustang Shelby GT500 sports car, but it could yet yield efficiency savings across its production workflow.
“This new process has the ability to change the way we use robotics in our manufacturing facilities,” said Jason Ryska, Ford’s Director of Global Manufacturing Technology Development. “Not only does it enable Ford to scale its 3D printer operations, it extends into other aspects of our manufacturing processes – this technology will allow us to simplify equipment and be even more flexible on the assembly line.”
At present, the company is utilizing its setup to make low-volume, custom parts such as a brake line bracket for the Performance Package-equipped version of its Mustang Shelby GT500. Moving forwards though, Ford believes its program could be applied to make other robots in its production line more efficient as well, and it has filed several patents, not just on its interface, but the positioning of its KUKA bot.
Ford presents its prestigious IT Innovation Award to IBM
The Maximo Visual Inspection platform can help reduce defects and downtime, as well as enable quick action and issue resolution. Ford deployed the solution at several plants and embedded it into multiple inspection points per plant. The goal was to help detect and correct automobile body defects during the production process. These defects are often hard to spot and represent risks to customer satisfaction.
Although computer vision for quality has been around for 30 years, the lightweight and portable nature of our solution — which is based on a standard iPhone and makes use of readily available hardware — really got Ford’s attention. Any of their employees can use the solution, anywhere, even while objects are in motion.
Ford found the system easy to train and deploy, without needing data scientists. The system learned quickly from images of acceptable and defective work, so it was up and running within weeks, and the implementation costs were lower than most alternatives. The ability to deliver AI-enabled automation using an intuitive process, in their plants, with approachable technology, will allow Ford to scale out rapidly to other facilities. Ford immediately saw measurable success in the reduction of defects.
Ford Taps Non-IT Professionals to Broaden Its AI Expertise
Ford hopes that opening up AI development to a broader range of employees can significantly reduce the average time it takes to develop many applications, in some cases from months to weeks and even days.
Ford’s AI builders are working on an AI-optimization model that will help the company decide which vehicles should be shipped to which European countries so that car inventory is optimized to maximize sales, according to Ford. The model takes into account thousands of variables, including the carbon-dioxide emissions of each vehicle type, each countries’ emission standards, the amount of miles citizens in a particular country drive, as well as the adoption of electric vehicles and the size of vehicles preferred in each country. Ford said the number of variables being analyzed requires the use of AI, which is designed to handle large data sets.
AWS, Google, Microsoft apply expertise in data, software to manufacturing
As manufacturing becomes digitized, Google’s methodologies that were developed for the consumer market are becoming relevant for industry, said Wee, who previously worked in the semiconductor industry as an industrial engineer. “We believe we’re at a point in time where these technologies—primarily the analytics and AI area—that have been very difficult to use for the typical industrial engineer are becoming so easy to use on the shop floor,” he said. “That’s where we believe our competitive differentiation lies.”
Meanwhile, Ford is also selectively favoring human brain power over software to analyze data and turning more and more to in-house coders than applications vendors. “The solution will be dependent upon the application,” Mikula said. “Sometimes it will be software, and sometimes it’ll be a data analyst who crunches the data sources. We would like to move to solutions that are more autonomous and driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence. The goal is to be less reliant on purchased SaaS.”
Circular Economy 3D Printing: Opportunities to Improve Sustainability in AM
Within the 3D printing sector alone, there are various initiatives currently underway to develop closed-loop manufacturing processes that reuse and repurpose waste materials. Within the automotive sector, Groupe Renault is creating a facility entirely dedicated to sustainable automotive production through recycling and retrofitting vehicles using 3D printing, while Ford and HP have teamed up to recycle 3D printing waste into end-use automotive parts.
One notable project that is addressing circular economy 3D printing is BARBARA (Biopolymers with Advanced functionalities foR Building and Automotive parts processed through Additive Manufacturing), a Horizon 2020 project that brought together 11 partners from across Europe to produce bio-based materials from food waste suitable for 3D printing prototypes in the automotive and construction sectors.
Ford's Ever-Smarter Robots Are Speeding Up the Assembly Line
At a Ford Transmission Plant in Livonia, Michigan, the station where robots help assemble torque converters now includes a system that uses AI to learn from previous attempts how to wiggle the pieces into place most efficiently. Inside a large safety cage, robot arms wheel around grasping circular pieces of metal, each about the diameter of a dinner plate, from a conveyor and slot them together.
The technology allows this part of the assembly line to run 15 percent faster, a significant improvement in automotive manufacturing where thin profit margins depend heavily on manufacturing efficiencies.
Missing Chips Snarl Car Production at Factories Worldwide
Semiconductor shortages may persist throughout the first half as chipmakers adjust their operations, researcher IHS Market predicted on Dec. 23. Automakers will start to see component supply gradually ease in the next two to three months, China Passenger Car Association, which groups the country’s largest carmakers, said Monday.
Chipmakers favor consumer-electronics customers because their orders are larger than those of automakers – the annual smartphone market alone is more than 1 billion devices, compared with fewer than 100 million cars. Automaking is also a lower-margin business, leaving manufacturers unwilling to bid up chip prices as they avoid risking their profitability.
How Ford, GM, FCA, and Tesla are bringing back factory workers
In the last week, factory employees have returned to work across the United States to make cars for the country’s four main auto manufacturers: Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Tesla. And each of those companies has published a plan showing how it will try to keep those workers from contracting or spreading COVID-19.
Those plans largely take the same shape. They’re presented in glossy PDF pamphlets, each starting with a letter to employees from the respective company’s highest-ranking executive overseeing workplace safety. Like any corporate document, they occasionally get bogged down with platitudes. But they all largely describe a lot of the same basic precautions, including supplying employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like masks or enforcing physical distancing of at least six feet.
How GM and Ford switched out pickup trucks for breathing machines
In the most severe cases of COVID-19, a patient’s lungs become so inflamed and full of fluid that they no longer deliver enough oxygen to the bloodstream to keep that person alive. One way to counteract this is by using a ventilator, which helps the patient’s lungs operate while the rest of the body fights off the virus.
As the spread of the new coronavirus bloomed into a pandemic, it became clear that there may not be enough ventilators in the United States (and around the world) to treat the coming wave of patients with these severe symptoms.
The Amazing Ways The Ford Motor Company Uses Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning
The Ford research lab has conducted research on computational intelligence for more than 20 years. About 15 years ago the company introduced an innovative misfire detection system—one of the first large-scale industrial applications of neural networks. Ford uses artificial intelligence to automate quality assurance as well; AI can detect wrinkles in car seats. In addition, neural networks help support Ford’s supply chain through inventory and resource management.