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March 05, 2012

Hopefuls Flock to VW Headquarters to Be Schooled in Robotics

Deutsche Messe, the organization behind the infamous CeBIT show runs a year-round academy that teaches students the way of the robot. The Robotation Academy is responsible for educating others that -- believe it or not -- robots can be cheap.

Cnet’s has the story that says that industrial robots are not very expensive, sporting price tags of only $10,000 and $20,000. Apparently, in the robotics field, that is cheap. The whole point of the program, aside from garnering interest and adoption, is to increase the use of robotics in the manufacturing world.

About 4,000 people per year come to the academy straight from Volkswagen, as they are the biggest players in robotics manufacturing, so it only makes sense.

"The carmakers only buy parts from the companies if you can deliver 100 percent quality," said Thomas Rilke, managing director of the academy in the report.

At BMW’s Spartanburg body shop, robots do 100 percent of the work.  On the assembly line, it’s not so much robots, but actual people who do the rest.

A future in robotics for BMW, as Industry Week notes, would mean moving the bots from just body work to actual assembly work.

"You can install robots by the trainload, as long as they go on that side of the wall in the factory," said Erik Nieves, technology director for Yaskawa America Inc.'s Motoman Robotics Division, and referring to the body shop. "That side is this very structured environment. In the body-in-white line, they may change the vehicle platform maybe once a year and not in any substantial way. All of the sheet metal is fixtured. The only obstacles the robots need to worry about are each other."

The problem Nieves feels is ease of use. As the report says, Nieves feels robots should be as easy to operate as every day consumer electronics, like a DVD player.

While we’re not 100 percent there, the future is bright for robotics.

"Today in 2012, we think of robots. By 2020, nobody will be talking like that," Nieves says. "They're going to be production partners. They're going to be your collaborators."

As for the Academy, it has more than a million dollars' worth of robots on hand for training purposes, so perhaps the future is closer than we think?




Edited by Rich Steeves


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