Ford has dabbled in 3D printing technology for years now, using gigantic printers to make automotive components, medical equipment, and even converting waste into parts. Through various partnerships, Ford 3D printing technology has also improved in recent months, aiding in metal production and also giving 2022 Ford Maverick owners easy templates to create their own accessories as well. Over time, Ford 3D printing technology has also become more autonomous than ever before, which is fitting for an automaker that has invested heavily in AV tech over the past several years.
This is possible thanks to a new, innovative robot named Javier, which was developed by KUKA and is capable of operating the 3D printers at Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center all on its own. This is the very first time in the automotive industry that an autonomous mobile robot has operated 3D Carbon printers, replacing the old fixed, stationary units that have been used for some time now.
Through the testing process, Ford has been able to achieve great accuracy using Javier by gathering feedback from the unit itself, which runs for the vast majority of the day with few breaks. This particular method is also being used with other robots employed across FoMoCo’s facilities to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Additionally, Ford has filed multiple patents related to the overall process, communication interfaces, and precise positioning of the robot, which does not require the use of a camera vision system to “see.”
Those innovations include a new application interface program that allows different pieces of equipment to “speak the same language” and send constant feedback to each other. For example, the printer can tell the robot when a product will be finished, while the robot can let the printer know that it has arrived and is ready to pick up. Thus far, FoMoCo has used this pair to make low-volume, custom parts including a brake line bracket for Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 models equipped with the Performance Package.
“This new process has the ability to change the way we use robotics in our manufacturing facilities,” said Jason Ryska, director, global manufacturing technology development. “Not only does it enable Ford to scale its 3D printer operations, it extends into other aspects of our manufacturing processes – this technology will allow us to simplify equipment and be even more flexible on the assembly line.”
We’ll have more on Ford’s 3D printing efforts soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for 24/7 Ford news coverage.
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