Ford trials four-legged robots in American factory

Ford is including four-legged robot dogs in a new trial scheme which aims to save time and money at one of its American plants.

Created by Boston Dynamics – a mobile robotics company – the two machines (called Fluffy and Spot) are being trialled at Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan.

Bright yellow and equipped with five cameras, the robots can travel up to 3mph for around two hours per charge. They’re being put to work scanning the plant floor and, by doing so, help engineers who are updating a computer aided design of the site prior to retooling.

Ford robot
The robot is controlled viaa gaming-like device

The robots can get into hard-to-reach places, and should be able to drive down the usual cost of the job which stands at nearly $300,000 (£233,000) for a full scan of the site.

Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager, said: “We design and build the plant. After that, over the years, changes are made that rarely get documented.

“By having the robots scan our facility, we can see what it actually looks like now and build a new engineering model. That digital model is then used when we need to retool the plant for new products.”

“We used to use a tripod, and we would walk around the facility stopping at different locations, each time standing around for five minutes waiting for the laser to scan. Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy’s help, we are able to do it in half the time.”

Ford Robot
The robot is capable of sitting and standing

Currently, the robots are programmed to follow a specific path and can be controlled from up to 50 metres away. Operators control the robots with a device which allows them to remotely see the camera view.

However, the future intent for the project is that the robots will be controlled remotely.

The robots are capable of changing positions from a crouch to a stretch, and even have three different ‘walks’; a regular walk for stable ground, an amble for uneven surfaces and a special speed for going up and down stairs.

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