Texan Car Factories

There is a long history of car manufacture in Texas, as early as 1917 a plant in Fort Worth. As many companies manufacture in a number of states it’s hard to find an individual characteristic that explains why a particular car is made a particular place. For instance, we may associate Cadillacs with Texas, but they were originally from Michigan. Still, if car makers prefer to locate factories there, either the State government is friendly to them (tax wise) or Texans as enterprising individuals.

The reason why cars were first made in Texas was to do with promising tax breaks. The first factory created Chevrolet’s. It didn’t look that much like a factory; the windows were too big. It would be satisfying to say the first car was a success, but it was given to a local reporter who promptly crashed it – so much for promotions.

The tax breaks for Chevrolets unfortunately didn’t last beyond 1922 and the factory had to close. Fortunately, a similar one opened in downtown Fort Worth.

“Texans” by Plymouth/ Dodge were also made in Fort Worth in 1922, almost forgotten about now. Their slogan was “first in endurance, durability and speed.” They might have had too much of the last feature with a massive 35 hp, more than they cope with. In their glory days they produced 20 cars a day, but it seems they did not live up to demand.

One factory that is still running is at Arlington – Arlington Assembly. The factory has operated more than 60 years creating large SUVs and Chevrolet and Cadillac, although when it started in 1954 it also made aircraft. During the 1990’s they also made roadsters such as the Buick Roadmaster. The names were reminiscent of long past – The Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the Pontiac Chieftain, despite this only being the 1990’s.

As with other factories they have recently moved into battery powered cars, with many developing cell technologies. The Chevrolet Volt was the first mass market plug-in hybrid. The Tahoe, described as a “full-sized SUV” with several versatile features, is also produced here. There are plans for a new underbody for both the Tahoe and Suburban – other improvements are more cargo space and electro-hydraulic brakes for both vehicles.

At this factory plans were announced in December 2019 for an expansion costing 1.6 million. In addition to this, there will be a $1.4 billion spent on an improved body and paint shops. So, it doesn’t appear this factory is going anywhere soon.

Tesla chose Austin to build a plant for the Cybertruck and the site also produces the Model Y, a small SUV. Reports say that they are concentrating on the East Coast, not the whole US, planning to invest $1 billion. Since they are planning to have a Cybertruck out there in 2021 they may need to get a move on.

Another car maker in Texas which don’t immediately trip off the tongue is Union Tank Car Company. Their focus is railway engines and carriages, but they also manufacture cars. And as with many automakers they manufacture in other states as well.

Cobots and the Workings of a Car Factory.

Cobots is the nickname given to robots who build cars on an automatic assembly line (short for collaboration robots). These robots cost from $50,000 to $80,000 but the big expense with this type of machinery is maintenance and repair.

Why Robots?

The reason for using robots isn’t as obvious as you might think. It’s not necessarily about robotic precision and speed—humans are able to work as fast as accurate in most cases. It’s actually about the danger to humans from repetitive stress. A human the same motion over and over can build up an injury.

Humans also get bored doing the same thing over and over, which can lead to accidents that harm themselves or others or create a potential defect in the vehicle. When a robot does something wrong it does it every time which means when you discover the problem you can go back and fix them all. It’s expensive but imagine having random errors on random units and trying to find all of those.

Finally, certain chemicals that are used are harmful to humans. Paint for example. If a robot paints a car it can essentially move via conveyer belt to the next part of the process. In the distant past of the assembly line someone ran the risk of spraying the car, then the car sat until dry before moving to the next process.

Supervision:

The tasks are supervised by a computer program. The science of performing individual tasks depends on both geometry and timing. The program tells each robot where each part should be placed, how to rotate, where to weld, etc. It also supervises the rotating of parts and moving of the cars.

The first waves of assembly robots were all in cages, no doubt to protect human workers. Now there are fewer humans working in close proximity to the machines, so the robots seem to roam free. Most of them are based in one place but they give the appearance of being free compared to their predecessors.

Production Order

The first part of the car to be constructed is the floor. This is done through pressing steel. Next light robotic arms do tasks as diverse as screwdriving, wheel mounting and installing the windshield.

The arms use a combo of lasers and cameras so the item can be offset properly. Tasks such as welding require robots with longer arms. To perform the task properly every time the arms work along the same arc for an entire pass.

The robots need to work together. If the panels aren’t in the right place they can’t weld together properly. Some jobs are more complicated than others; windshield placing requires several vacuum powered functioned grips for example.

Other things you may not know about Cobots:

What people may not know is that robots also tend to other machines in the factory, for example automatic forklifts load and unload items.

Quality control is still performed by the human workforce.

Another thing people may not know is, like humans, robots tend to work on shifts. A robot can work for two or three shift operations until it needs to be replaced by another robot. Engineers are always looking for more accurate ways to the building of their vehicles.

As late as 2005 90% of all robots were found in car factories. Automating the process is about increasing the safety, quality and productivity. In the same way that conveyor belts were first used in the car industry robots have taken over auto factories.

As well as the co-bots many factories “employ” drones to check vital parts of the factory, such as delivery pipes. It saves humans from climbing around to check remote locations.

There is no end to a robots uses in a car factory. There were even reports that robots were making the coffee in one Ford plant – hardly the most dangerous job in the world, so maybe it was a PR stunt. Still, it shows their versatility.