Design and implementation of an automated flexible assembly cell for research purposes

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Virginia Tech


A better understanding of the assembly process and the technologies associated with automated assembly is needed for the successful development of a true flexible and intelligent assembly system. The development of more flexible peripherals and a better understanding of coordination and communication problems among the elements of the cell are some of the topics that require further investigation.

The objective of this project was to create an automated flexible assembly cell to be the test bed for basic and applied research in the areas of: (1) system configuration, (2) sensing, (3) end effector and manipulators, (4) part storage, feeding and presentation, and (5) part mating.

The implemented assembly cell contains three SCARA robots, a conveyor, a cell control computer, and communication and testing software. The cell is a mixed configuration: assembly line - single station, with two workstations. One workstation contains one robot and the other station holds two robots with overlapping work envelopes. The conveyor is a two-level closed loop configuration, controlled by a programmable logic controller. The cell controller computer contains dedicated software for information integration and control operations within the cell. In order to achieve the final configuration of the assembly cell, requirements for the research areas were defined; and mechanical integration, electrical interconnecting, and communication software were designed and implemented.