Audi banks on human-robot without protective fence

German car maker Audi is using for the first time a human-robot cooperation in its main plant in Ingolstadt for applying adhesive in final assembly.

Human-robot cooperation: KLARA facilitates greater diversity of versions in production at Audi – image courtesy of Audi

The new human-robot colleague in the assembly of Audi A4 and A5 models has been applied in the main factory in Bavarian Ingolstadt, where people and robots now work side by side without a protective fence.

The “Adhesive application with robot assistance,” which is abbreviated from the German as KLARA, provides support with the installation of roofs made of carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) in the new Audi RS 5 Coupe.

As the first step, an employee places the carbon-fibre reinforced polymer roof on a rotary table and tilts it. The application of adhesive is triggered by pressing and holding a button.

An illuminated ring indicates when KLARA has precisely applied adhesive over a length of more than five meters. The robot then signals that the roof is ready for installation, and the employee takes the roof with the aid of a handling device and installs it in the car.

As the CFRP roof is an optional equipment in the new Audi RS 5 Coupe and is significantly larger than comparable roof systems, a person would therefore not be able to apply the adhesive as reliably and accurately as KLARA.

Unlike conventional robots, KLARA does not require a protective fence, which means that the working spaces of human and machine blend into one. This saves considerable space at the assembly line and allows HRC to be integrated into the production line. With human-robot cooperation like this, employee safety has top priority at Audi.

The employee is in control, initiates the application of adhesive and can halt the process at any time. Sensors in the robot arm recognise when a human is touched and automatically stop any movement in the case of danger.

KLARA also indicates any danger with the illuminated ring: It lights up red if there is any disturbance.