Robotic test system from KUKA checks seats in the automotive industry

Two KUKA Occubot measuring robots are used at the Ford plants in Cologne. The industrial testing robots perform fully automated ingress and egress tests on car seats. They realistically simulate the human buttocks.

Apple, apricot or pear – the human posterior comes in a wide range of different forms. Car seats must offer maximum comfort and the required safety for the different shapes. Automotive manufacturers must also ensure the quality and durability of the seats. They are thus among the car parts that are most intensively tested. At the Ford Development Center in Cologne-Merkenich, two KUKA robotic test systems perform part of this process. They test new car seats about 25,000 times. A wide variety of different load profiles during ingress and egress are tested. If the seats withstand this testing, they go into production.

KUKA measuring robot ensures efficient quality check

The simulation process is carried out at Ford by two KUKA OccuBot systems. The newest system was put into operation at the beginning of 2018. One part of the robotic test system is the KR QUANTEC Prime. The OccuForm dummy is mounted on the robot arm of the industrial testing robot. It exerts a load at predefined contact points on the car seat and records force/travel curves. The seat testing laboratory makes it possible to perform all tests at a single in-house location. This has numerous advantages for Ford. First, the automaker acquires know-how by performing its own tests. Second, Ford has much better control over the seat quality tests. At the same time, costs are reduced due to faster work processes and shorter distances and delivery times.

The KUKA OccuBot industrial testing robot in action.

Individual seating behavior as basis for robotic measuring system

At the start of the comprehensive quality test, Ford first analyzes how people get into and out of cars. For this, pressure mats on the seats record detailed information. “Every person exerts a different type of load on a car seat. For this reason, we test the seating behavior of people of different sizes and statures at Ford,” says Ford Test Engineer Svenja Fröhlich. Ford engineers use the collected data to develop a representative motion profile that they then program on the robot together with the force distribution.

Flexible car seat testing with the KUKA measuring robot

Measuring robot enables long-time tests

The obtained data images are finally replicated with the KUKA robot. The engineers use the resulting information to investigate how the seat reacts to strain, motion and pressure. For this purpose, the dummy gets in and out of the seat literally 25,000 times. In other words: during a test phase lasting approximately three weeks, the measuring robot simulates various ingress and egress scenarios. Using the calculated data, the robotic test system presses the dummy into the seat. A force/torque sensor checks the correct position every twelve milliseconds. This way, ten years’ worth of wear and tear can be simulated and analyzed in a short space of time. If there is no evidence of damage or changes to the contour, the seat enters production.
The measuring robot checks the exact positioning every twelve milliseconds.

KUKA robotic test system can be used flexibly

Ford is highly satisfied with the new measuring robot. The most compelling argument is the flexibility of the robotic inspection. A further advantage of the robotic measuring system is the greater comparability of the data. The complete solution offered by KUKA with the OccuBot is also used by many automotive suppliers. This makes standardization of the data easier. Ford has applied the test procedure to all new vehicles in the European production facilities.

KUKA robots offer the necessary flexibility for implementing freely programmable tests. Other inspection options, such as linear gantries, have a much more restricted motion profile.

Peter Fornoff, KUKA
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