SABACE is a project within the Production Cluster for assembly, which started in April 2021 and will run until 2024. Partner companies are Volvo Cars, Scania, Parker and Volvo AB. The project’s goal is to develop an industrial strategy for the development of safe and sustainable assembly where humans and robots work together, a strategy that supports high productivity and performance for heavy and / or electrified products in a composite system with many product variants.
Identification of common needs
In dialogue with the industry partners, two main knowledge needs have been identified. First, the importance of identifying potential areas for long-term application of automated solutions within the assembly line by considering safety, ergonomics and productivity factors. Project manager Kerstin Johansen, at Jönköping University explains:
– In order to increase productivity when assembling customized products, you must find ways to support the assembly in a good way. It may be to replace some elements with automation to relieve the operator, and then you have to consider ergonomics, safety and that the automation is flexible. And it should provide maintained or preferably increased productivity, without sacrificing quality, while being sustainable in the long run.
The second need identified is for safe handling of automated operations during, for example, battery installation.
– We assemble active materials. When we install battery packs, the product becomes more dangerous the longer we get in the assembly and the greater the consequence if we make an incorrect assembly. Therefore, we focus on eliminating the risk of incorrect assembly. Automation can contribute to reduced risk and also provides increased traceability and repeatability, explains Kerstin Johansen.
Customization in small volumes
Assembly of customized products, or in other words high mix in low volume, is the common interest of all companies in the project.
– Today there are solutions for large products in high volume and there are for micro-assembly, but there are no solutions for customized products in the “mid-size segment”, and this is where we come in, says Kerstin Johansen and continues:
– Previously, the industry in these cases used manual assembly. Now they want to increase productivity at no higher cost, and the companies that meet this challenge get a competitive advantage.
Guidelines for effective interaction between humans and robots
During the project, various proof-of-concepts will be implemented. The results from the project will contribute to guidelines for the participating industry partners, which can contribute to the development of safe and ergonomic assembly layouts where humans and robots can work together effectively.
This is probably the first project in the Production Cluster for assembly that is financed by KK-stiftelsen, says Kerstin Johansen:
– The fact that we have different financiers with different requirements is exciting in itself, it teaches us to collaborate between industry and academia in Sweden to build industrial competitiveness. Automation for low volume in a high mix in a sustainable way, that is our way of contributing.