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In some areas of manufacturing, such as welding and assembly, many processes are still carried out manually owing to specific requirements for an automation solution. However, with the appropriate knowledge and a systematic analysis of the individual processes, those processes that can be automated in a technically and economically viable manner can soon be identified.
With this in mind, Fraunhofer IPA has developed Automation Potential Analysis (APA). Based on specific criteria, the automation experts check each process's Fitness for Automation and weight various criteria according to customer requirements. The result of this analysis is a recommendation for full or partial automation and, where appropriate, a solution with human-robot collaboration (HRC). The methodology has already been applied in more than 500 customer projects worldwide.
Another way to make production more efficient is to design products in a more automation-friendly way from the aspect of Design for Automation. And in cases where the APA result shows that (partial) automation is not worthwhile, Design for Automation can often improve even manual assembly operations and reduce errors.
In many manufacturing companies, assembly tasks are still performed manually. The reasons for this are a large number of variants with small batch sizes, highly diverse assembly processes, and a parts supply that is difficult to automate. Nevertheless, rationalization potential in assembly operations can often still be tapped through automation, thus enabling goods to be manufactured at lower cost.
During an APA, the assembly processes are recorded chronologically. For each step, the way parts are supplied and the assembly process itself are documented. Using the analysis tool, each of the assembly processes considered is evaluated not only for its technical feasibility in terms of separation, handling, positioning and joining, but also for potential cost savings. The result is an easy-to-understand documented assessment of the feasibility of automating each of the assembly steps examined.
In many manufacturing companies, welding tasks are still performed manually. The reasons for this are a large number of variants with small batch sizes, and a parts supply that is difficult to automate. Nevertheless, even here, automation can often be used to counter the shortage of skilled workers, to tap rationalization potential and thus to manufacture goods at lower cost.
During an APA, the processes are recorded chronologically. For each step, the way parts are supplied, tack welding, as well as welding processes and finishing tasks are documented. Using the analysis tool, each of the processes considered is evaluated not only for its technical feasibility but also for potential cost savings. The result is an easy-to-understand documented assessment of the feasibility of automating each of the process steps examined.
Design for Automation (DfA) describes the way a product is designed with the aim of making it suitable not only for automated assembly but also automated disassembly. Because humans have such a wide range of skills, they are capable of putting parts together that are difficult to assemble and disassembling them again in exactly the same way. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case with automation processes. DfA is all about making it possible to assemble even complex products automatically with little or no human intervention.
Design for Automation thus goes a step further than Design for X (e.g. Design for Assembly), which considers product design suitable for assembly in general terms.
The rules of assembly-oriented design are also found in Design for Automation but in this case the aspect of automation is also taken into account. If something can be joined or separated well using automated processes, then it can also be joined or separated well using manual processes. A DfA workshop thus yields important results even if no automation solution is recommended at the end.