Jul 25, 2018 | By Thomas

General Motors is using various new technologies such as robotic arm and 3D printing at its assembly plants. At a General Motors' Assembly plant in Michigan, workers may gain grasp-assist from a wearable device called RoboGlove to handle 3D printed parts.

3D printed parts save money on the assembly line

At its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan, GM is trying out 3D-printed parts on a large scale. GM's 3D printer at Delta Lansing cost it approximately $35,000, but it has saved the company more than $300,000 over two years on tools and other accessories. As an example, the factory uses a 3D printed tool to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers. To buy this from a third party would cost the company upward of $3,000, but same piece cost less than $3 to be 3D printed at the plant.

GM said the 3D printer has a couple dozen uses in the plant, including making socket covers, hangers for parts and other ergonomic and safety tools.

We've done many parts for many different applications, including production aids, ergo tools for operators, and prototypes," says Zane Meike additive manufacturing plant lead. The 3D printed parts are made from various powders, including carbon fiber-infused nylon.

RoboGlove lends a hand

The RoboGlove was developed as part of a nine-year collaboration between GM and NASA. It is designed to be as dextrous and flexible as humans that astronauts and autoworkers can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. "The Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an autoworker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions," said Dana Komin, GM's manufacturing engineering director, Global Automation Strategy and Execution. "In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury."

Actuators are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors are also incorporated into the fingertips of the glove to detect when the user is grasping a tool. When the user grasps the tool, the synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released.

This fall, GM plans to launch a pilot program for the RoboGlove. The program will involve at least 20 line operators doing various tasks, such as door assembly and roof rail airbag assembly at a North American vehicle assembly plant.

The applications for both large-scale 3D priting, and RoboGlove are endless. In the near future, workers may use RoboGlove to produce all 3D printed parts and tools.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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