An automotive assembly puzzle

Although the problem in Figure 1.2 may appear to be pure fun and games, similar problems arise in important applications. For example, Figure 1.3 shows an automotive assembly problem for which software is needed to determine whether a wiper motor can be inserted (and removed) from the car body cavity. Traditionally, such a problem is solved by constructing physical models. This costly and time-consuming part of the design process can be virtually eliminated in software by directly manipulating the CAD models.

Figure 1.3: An automotive assembly task that involves inserting or removing a windshield wiper motor from a car body cavity. This problem was solved for clients using the motion planning software of Kineo CAM (courtesy of Kineo CAM).

The wiper example is just one of many. The most widespread impact on industry comes from motion planning software developed at Kineo CAM. It has been integrated into Robcad (eM-Workplace) from Tecnomatix, which is a leading tool for designing robotic workcells in numerous factories around the world. Their software has also been applied to assembly problems by Renault, Ford, Airbus, Optivus, and many other major corporations. Other companies and institutions are also heavily involved in developing and delivering motion planning tools for industry (many are secret projects, which unfortunately cannot be described here). One of the first instances of motion planning applied to real assembly problems is documented in [186].

Steven M LaValle 2012-04-20