Assembly line avatars help Ford Motor Co. reduce worker injury and improve vehicle quality.
Anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs), a.k.a ., Crash Test Dummies, have been used by automotive test engineers for many years to make car owners and their precious cargo safer. But the people who assemble those cars can experience a number of types of injuries, many of which are caused by repetitive motion or overexertion.
Ford Motor company has been working to change that and since 2003 has reduced the injury rate for its “industrial athletes” by more than 70 percent. This has been accomplished through a variety of techniques, including analysis of workers’ movements in the company’s motion capture lab, which is powered by digital cameras and motion tracking software from Motion Analysis Corp. (MAC).
Tracking their motions helps to understand the actions that are required to manipulate a part, how well they can see what they’re doing and whether we need to redesign a component to make assembly easier. This information is then applied during new vehicle planning.
Like in a video game, virtual reality headsets immerse an operator in a futuristic workspace with motion cameras tracking their every move. And 3-D printers are used to construct mockups of vehicle components, simulating a tight corner in an engine compartment or a hard-to-reach bolt on an undercarriage. The collected data is then fed into a series of analysis tools. One of these is Jack, a human simulation tool from software provider Siemens PLM.
Jack provides invaluable information about the mechanics, energy expenditure and mechanical stresses faced by human bodies in industrial settings, including their posture. Combining the Jack human simulation capability with assembly process simulation allows them to optimize how workers perform in the production environment. A simulation begins by selecting the appropriate body size, shape and sex (yes, there is a Jill) for the human that’s being modeled.
One additional benefit comes from the reduced need for tooling and prototypes, spending time and money only to discover a product is difficult to assemble. With Jack and the other simulation tools Ford has at its disposal, that information can immediately be relayed to the engineering department for improvement.
>> Read more by Kip Hanson, Fab Shop Direct Magazine, 2017-03-17