Modern product assembly is a demanding challenge due to the high number of parts, machines, tools, techniques and people involved in the process. Many assembly operators, therefore, are exposed to an intense cognitive load and also physically challenged due to a large number of repetitive tasks.
Even though modern assembly lines use machines and industrial robots for physically intense, harmful or repetitive tasks, human operators still have some advantages over fully automated systems.
Inspiration and Method
This thesis explores how to fuse the strengths of both, industrial robots and human operators, to reduce the difficult challenges for the operators and to improve the general work environment while improving productivity and flexibility of the assembly line.
To get first-hand insights of current assembly, I observed the work environments of four different manufacturers around Sweden. I analysed their setups, watched the processes, and got to interview the production managers and operatives to get to know the various challenges of today’s assembly lines.
I clustered those insights into development fields and advanced ideas to improve the work environment.
Then, I chose the most promising idea and started to prototype it with cardboard mockups. Roleplaying an assembly scenario using the mockups, I learned how to finetune the service and products.
Then, I was able to define the complete archetype of the system. With further idea generation in sketches, I developed the form and function of the concluding product. Finally, I created the complete model in a 3D CAD platform and tested its features with CNC milled prototypes.
The final result is called COOE. It is a smart table-based assembly system combining the strengths of the machine and the human. It takes human motions and behaviour into account while boosting productivity as a collaborative team.