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MBS ROUNDUP: GM and Cobots; Lightweighting; Toyota’s Fuel Cell Truck

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media
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Toyota Motor Corp.’s hydrogen fuel cell engine on its Beta truck

ACME, MI – General Motors Co. (Detroit) is boosting its use of collaborative robots, a manufacturing executive said at this week’s Management Briefing Seminars (MBS).

Collaborative robots, or cobots, can be deployed in close proximity to production workers. Conventional robots are separated from production employees.

The collaborative robot doesn’t replace the operator, it assists the operator,” Daniel Grieshaber, GM’s director of global manufacturing engineering integration, said at a July 30 presentation.

GM has about 50 cobots globally, mostly in North America. The automaker buys its robots from FANUC.

All of the GM cobots are equipped with FANUC’s ZDT (for Zero Down Time) application, which gathers data from robots and monitors them to determine when maintenance is needed. GM has almost 14,000 ZDT-equipped robots out of 33,000 total robots.

“It helps us keep our plants running,” Grieshaber said after his presentation, referring to ZDT.

GM’s deployment of robots aren’t reducing jobs, the executive said. “It may be shifting jobs.”

Lightweighting

GM and BMW AG were among the winning companies for the Altair Enlighten Award. The winners were disclosed at MBS.

GM won in the full vehicle category for the company’s 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, with weighs 450 lb (204.5 kg) lighter than its predecessor model. BMW won the award in the module category for a 3D printed metal component used in the 2018 BMW i8 Roadster.

Other winners included Asahi Kasei Corp. and U.S. Steel Corp.

Fuel Cell Truck

Toyota Motor Corp. displayed a heavy-duty hydrogen fuel cell truck. Toyota said the truck, known internally as Beta, has a range of 300 miles (483 km) per fill. The truck shown at MBS is the second version of the fuel cell vehicle.

The fuel cell converts hydrogen to electricity while emitting water vapor.

The first Alpha fuel cell truck began operation in April 2017. According to Toyota that truck has logged almost 10,000 miles of testing and real-world short-range hauling in southern California. The first generation truck had a range of 200 miles per fill.

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