May 16, 2020

Robots and humans work side by side at Audi in an industry first

Audi
automotive manufacturing
Robotics
Glen White
3 min
By 2020, the company aims to be the premium brand number one on a sustainable basis.
At its main plant in Ingolstadt, Audi says that it has - for the first time - deployed a robot that works "hand-in-hand" with humans, without...

At its main plant in Ingolstadt, Audi says that it has - for the first time - deployed a robot that works "hand-in-hand" with humans, without a safety barrier.

It is the first time human-robot cooperation at the Volkswagen Group has been applied in final assembly. Audi claims the innovative technology makes work easier for the assembly employees and makes ergonomic improvements.

Dr Hubert Waltl, Board of Management Member for Production at Audi said the new human robot cooperation opens up new possibilities. "The factory of the future will feature increasing interaction between man and machine," he said. "That allows us to automate routine operations and to optimise ergonomically unfavourable workplaces." But also - he said - in the future, there will be no factory without people. "People will continue to make the decisions on production processes. And our employees will continue to be essential for future-oriented, successful production."

Peter Mosch, Chairman of the Group Works Council of AUDI AG, commented: "We see the opportunities presented by the advancing interaction between man and machine. The decisive aspect for us is how this development is guided. We welcome it when it neither jeopardizes jobs nor leads to people losing independence to machines."

For the employees on the A4/A5/Q5 line, the robot removes the need to bend over material boxes to take out the coolant expansion tanks. At first glance, this seems like a simple task, but with frequent repetitions, Audi says, it can lead to back problems. From now on, the task will be taken over by a robot, known internally as "PART4you".

It works hand-in-hand with the Audi employees and is fitted with a camera and an integrated suction cup. This enables it to pick up the components from the boxes and to pass them to the assembly workers - without any safety barrier, at the right time and in an ergonomically optimal position.

"In a production process with increasing diversity of model versions, PART4you provides the employees with important assistance. It selects the correct component and holds it ready to be taken. This means that the employees no longer have to reach over long distances or bend down repeatedly. The robot becomes an assembly assistant operating at the same speed as the assembly worker - and not the other way around," said Johann Hegel, Head of Assembly Technology Development.

"Thanks to a soft protective skin with integrated safety sensors, there is no danger to the employees," added Hegel. Because PART4you fulfills the special safety precautions for cooperating robots, the intelligent system has received the required certificate from the employers' liability insurance association.

Since 2013, Audi employees in the A4 body shop in Ingolstadt have been working with the same type of robot equipped with an adhesive nozzle instead of a suction cup - but with fixed timing and without passing components. In the body shop, the robots support the employees by applying adhesive to bonded seams. Instead of applying the adhesive to the body parts themselves, the employees only have to put them in place and start the automatic procedure.

Audi says it is planning further applications of human-robot cooperation, also at its international production sites.

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May 12, 2021

Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing

SustainableManufacturing
BatteryCell
EVs
Automotive
2 min
Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

 

What is Ultium Cells LLC?

Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”

Who is Li-Cycle?

Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.

As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”

Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?

By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.

“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.

"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.

Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

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