A visualization approach for improved interpretation and evaluation of assembly line balancing solutions
Abstract: Future manufacturing will be characterized by the complementarity between humans and automation (human-robot collaboration). This requires new methods and tools for the design and operation of optimized manufacturing workplaces in terms of ergonomics, safety, efficiency, complexity management and work satisfaction. There have been some efforts in the recent years to propose a tool for determining optimal human-automation levels for load balancing. Although the topic is quite new, it shares some similarities with some of the existing research in the area of robotic assembly line balancing. Therefore, it is crucial to review the existing literature and find the most similar models and methods to facilitate the development of new optimization models and algorithms. One of the two contributions that this thesis gives to the research world in the RALBP context is a literature review that involves high quality articles from 1993 to beginning 2018. This literature review includes visual and comprehensive tables—and a label system— where previous research patterns and trends are highlighted. Visualization of data and results obtained by assembly line optimization tools is a very important topic that has rarely been studied. Data visualization would provide a: 1. better comprehension of patterns, trends and qualitative data 2. more constructive information absorption 3. better visualization of relationships and patterns between operations, and 4. better contribution to data manipulation and interaction. The second contribution to research found in this thesis is the use of a human modelling (DHM) tool (called IPS), which is proposed as an assessment to the ergonomic risk that a robotic assembly line may involve. This kind of studies are necessary in order to reduce one of the most frequent reasons of work absence in our today society i.e. musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are often the result of poor work environments and they lead to reduced productivity and quality losses at companies. In view of the above, IPS was used in order to resolve the load handling problem between human and robot, depending on their skills and availability, while fulfilling essential ISO standards i.e. 15066 and 10218:1 and :2. The literature review made it possible to select highly useful documents in developing assumptions for the experiment and contributed to consider real features detected in the industry. Results show that even though IPS is not capable of calculating an entire robotic assembly with human-robot collaboration, it is able to simulate a workstation constituted of one robot and one human. Finite and assembly motions for both human and robot are expected to be implemented in future versions of the software. Finally, the main advantages of using DHM tools in assessing ergonomic risks in RALB can be extracted from the results of this thesis. This advantages include 1. ergonomic evaluation for assembly motions 2. ergonomic evaluation for a full working day (available in future version) and 3. essential ISO standard testing (available in future version).
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