Human Assisted Assembly Processes
Automatic assembly sequencing and visualization tools are valuable in determining the best assembly sequences, but without Human Factors and Figure Models (HFFMs) it is difficult to evaluate or visualize human interaction. In industry, accelerating technological advances and shorter market windows have forced companies to turn to an agile manufacturing paradigm. This trend has promoted computerized automation of product design and manufacturing processes, such as automated assembly planning. However, all automated assembly planning software tools assume that the individual components fly into their assembled configuration and generate what appear to be a perfectly valid operations, but in reality the operations cannot physically be carried out by a human. Similarly, human figure modeling algorithms may indicate that assembly operations are not feasible and consequently force design modifications; however, if they had the capability to quickly generate alternative assembly sequences, they might have identified a feasible solution. To solve this problem HFFMs must be integrated with automated assembly planning to allow engineers to verify that assembly operations are possible and to see ways to make the designs even better. Factories will very likely put humans and robots together in cooperative environments to meet the demands for customized products, for purposes including robotic and automated assembly. For robots to work harmoniously within an integrated environment with humans the robots must have cooperative operational skills. For example, in a human only environment, humans may tolerate collisions with one another if they did not cause much pain. This level of tolerance may or may not apply to robot-human environments. Humans expect that robots will be able to operate and navigate in their environments without collisions or interference. The ability to accomplish this is linked to the sensing capabilities available. Current work in the field of cooperative automation has shown the effectiveness of humans and machines directly interacting to perform tasks. To continue to advance this area of robotics, effective means need to be developed to allow natural ways for people to communicate and cooperate with robots just as they do with one another.