See Robot Spot 3D-Map a Ford Transmission Factory

Roberto Baldwin
·2 min read
Photo credit: Ford
Photo credit: Ford

From Popular Mechanics

  • Ford is using Boston Dynamics’ robot dogs to 3D scan a factory.

  • The dogs can see areas that traditional capture methods would not be able to see.

  • With the data, Ford can better retool its facilities.

Ford has announced it has leased a pair of Boston Dynamics' Spot robotic dogs.

Ford is using the robots to help it 3D-map its Van Dyke Transmission Plant. "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," said Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager. The automaker named one of them Fluffy. The other is keeping its Spot moniker assigned to it by Boston Dynamics.

The dogs are used to capture 360-degree images of areas in the plant that are difficult to get to using a traditional 3D camera on a tripod. They're equipped with five cameras and can navigate stairs and kneel down to get into hard-to-reach places. Their four legs allow the robots to walk, doglike, around the plant at speeds of up to 3 mph—so they're not exactly zippy. The battery lasts for two hours.

Goeris said that the old way of scanning with a camera on a tripod was tedious and could take two weeks. Using the robots cuts that time in half. It also used cost $300,000 to do it the old way. The robots are cheaper, but Ford didn't say by how much.

Currently, the metal canines are followed by their handler, Paula Wiebelhaus, who manages the robots via a controller with a display that sees what the dogs see. But in the near future Ford wants to be able to program the pups to go different parts of the plant and report back what they see without being followed by a human. They can also hitch a ride on the back of an autonomous mobile robot that Ford has named Scouter. Like the dogs, it’s also capturing 3D scans of its environment.

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