Ford unleashes robot dog to update factory

Ford's latest 4x4 can go where the Bronco can't

Ford’s latest 4x4 can go places even the new Bronco can’t reach.

The automaker is using a robot "dog' built by Boston Dynamics to help update its Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich.

“Fluffy” has been equipped with a four-camera scanning device that will create a 3D map of the facility and all of its equipment, to help engineers when they need to redesign it to build new products.

The 70-pound quadruped can climb stairs and fit into tight spots that a wheeled platform could not reach.

Ford

Ford

Ford digital engineering manager Mark Goderis said the process usually requires a human to move a tripod around, then wait five minutes at each spot for the scan to be completed.

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Fluffy is capable of walking around for two hours at a time at up to 3 mph, and can crouch or stretch to give the cameras a better view, all while under the control of a remote operator.

Ford

Ford

Goderis said a typical scanning job can take up to two weeks at a cost of $300,000, but that Fluffy will help cut that in half at a fraction of the cost, not revealing exactly how much that is.

Boston Dynamics sells the devices for $74,500, which is around the same price as a Ford Mustang GT500, but Ford is leasing Fluffy and a second unit nicknamed “Spot” for a year.

According to the latest UAW contract, Ford is investing $400 million in the factory to build new transmissions, transaxles and electric motors.

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