Ford uses a robot simulating the impact of a hard-thrown ball to test air bag sensors on 2009 models

Are Robots Hitting the Wall?

Japan's recession is idling both industrial and toy robots there, but the situation apparently isn't so dire in American industry. Ford uses robots to test new air bag sensors on its 2009 F-150 pickup to Taurus models; this Ford photo shows a robot inflicting a door impact simulating a hard-thrown ball.

Japan's recession is idling both industrial and toy robots, The New York Times reported Monday, but the situation apparently isn't so dire in American industry. FANUC Robotics America, Inc. took a Certified Education Robot Training (CERT) mobile unit to the 2009 International Robots & Vision Motion Control Show in Rosemont, Ill., last month to demonstrate the education needed by technical workers and the value of robotics to North American manufacturing. And Ford’s using robots to test new air bag sensors on two 2009 models, the F-150 pickup and Taurus sedan. The air bag sensors respond to a side impact up to 30 percent faster than a traditional air bag sensor, according to Ford.

The Times' article said several once-promising robot introductions in Japan have fizzled as the economy causes consumers to tighten their wallets. While some of the failures involved toy robots, others were industrial models, including some designed for health care or home settings to assist elderly or disabled individuals, according to the report.

FANUC Robotics America, Inc. describes itself as the leading robotics company in America. Its headquarters are located in Detroit, but the company is a subsidiary of a Japanese manufacturer, FANUC LTD. The Orange County, Calif., facility of the U.S. division provided technical support and 18 robots that were used in the filming of the Warner Brothers' movie "Terminator Salvation." The company says it created the CERT program in response to the growing need for a qualified technical work force in manufacturing. "With this package," said Peter Varbedian, a senior staff specialist, "students can learn fundamental through advanced engineering and manufacturing concepts, and they will work with the same robots, software, and applications that are used in industry."

For information about companies providing robotic products, visit the Robotic Industries Association’s Web site.

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