When my father took delivery of a brand-new 1981 Reliant K Car, he asked me to give him a ride down to the dealership to pick it up. Everything went fine as he pulled off the lot.
As I followed him home on that maiden voyage, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The car's muffler and tailpipe fell off on to the road in front of me. It was a good thing I was there to stop and block traffic. He pulled over to retrieve the errant equipment. Once we had picked the muffler and tailpipe off the road and dragged it to the side, we inspected the clean equipment to see what the problem was.
We both laughed heartily when we realized what the problem was. That very morning, my father and I had been talking about recently deployed robotic welders on automotive assembly lines. We discussed the speed and precision of the new robots. The robots were able to put a bead of weld on a sheet metal seam at good speeds without missing a spot.
As we stood on the curb that day, neither of us could believe that the perfect bead of weld was precisely one inch from the end of the muffler tube. The bead was fine and tidy. It just happened to be in the wrong spot, thus completely missing the spot that would attach the muffler assembly to the car. It simply didn’t manage to do its primary job of keeping the muffler from falling off.
The errant weld on the Reliant K Car must have been an isolated instance, as my dad didn’t receive any subsequent recall notice to correct the muffler and tailpipe weld. Apparently, it was just one robot having a difficult day. I guess monkeys cause problems in the robotic world, just as they do in the human world.
This entry was submitted by Kevin Otte and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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