Within industry, many diverse, repetitive operations such as spot welding and spray-painting are often handled by robots. However, robots cannot react to a changing work environment.
One NCMS member consortium recognized the shortcomings in industrial robotics, and submitted a competitive proposal to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Technology Program for a project that would reduce repetitive stress injuries, reduce manufacturing costs, and improve safety and product quality, and overcome the technology limitations of robotics and vision systems in assembly applications. Upon contract award, the collaborative project team, the Automated Powertrain Assembly Consortium, began developing and improving several hardware and software technologies. Currently, an integrated work cell, incorporating a novel, highly dexterous manipulator incorporating fully parallel mechanical architecture and force control with natural admittance control, and three-dimensional vision incorporating 6 dof part position data, is undergoing assembly trials. The project is at the point where demonstrations to the public are scheduled to begin this month.