Vision-Guided Robotics Responds to Changes in Photovoltaic Manufacturing
by Winn Hardin
, Contributing Editor - Automated Imaging Association
Robotic Industries Association
When a U.S. company called on manufacturing solutions provider Comau Inc. (Southfield, Michigan) to develop a vision-guided robotic workcell proof-of-concept for manufacturing specialty solar cells, Comau was responding to several trends affecting the photovoltaic industry.
First, economic sluggishness and low petroleum prices have softened solar cell markets, despite a growing interest in renewable energy sources around the globe. U.S. companies are particularly challenged because, despite being a leader in the development of photovoltaic product designs, the country has considerably higher labor prices than many emerging or developing markets in Asia and Europe. Companies are responding to both of these challenges by requesting smaller, more flexible manufacturing solutions that can do more production, assembly and quality control functions in a small footprint and at lower cost than traditional manufacturing that depends heavily on specialized tooling and skilled labor. As the economy returns to health, manufacturers can then simply add addition workcells and ramp up production without having to recreate the ‘wheel.’
Economic sluggishness and a need for developed countries to compete with manufacturing costs from low-cost labor markets means that customers want smaller, more flexible vision guided robotic assembly workcells for photovoltaic manufacturing. Vision is helping to make that happen. See the entire story on Machine Vision Online.