What You Need to Know.
In this article we will take a closer look at:
2. Automotive Industry Applications of Automation
3. Types of Automaiton Used in Automotive Mfg
> Fixed Automation
> Progtammable Automation
> Flexible Automation
> Examples of Manufacturing Automation
4. Robotics and Workholding in Automotive Automation
> Advanced Robotic Automation
> Body-in-White (BIW) Robotic Welding Cells
> Stamping Press Automation Solutions
> Automotive Powertrain Manufacture & Assembly
> Vehicle Final Trim & Assembly
Robotics play a major role in manufacturing automation today. Manufacturing robots automate repetitive tasks, reduce margins of error to negligible rates, and enable human workers to focus on more productive areas of the operation. Robots used in manufacturing fill numerous roles today including making up for the lack of qualified employees.
As greater flexibility and quick changeover become requirements to be competitive in manufacturing, the connection between robots, fixtures and workholding is much more sophisticated and is an integral part of fixture designs. Eventually, a robot may become the fixture as well as the part handler.
Furthermore, the increased use of automation and robotics has been a key driver in the development of improved workholding methods.
The automotive industry recognizes that robotic workholding, also known as end-of-arm-tooling, is the key to successful manufacturing automation. The robot itself can’t do any work without end-of-arm tooling such as grippers, sensors, and other automation peripherals.
Advanced Robotic Automation
In automotive manufacturing automation, the biggest advancements trending today are:
Inspection, testing and analysis of workpieces can all be achieved by robots that are equipped with machine vision. Machine vision improves workholding effectiveness, eliminates the need for human intervention and reduces production times even further. Robots equipped with machine vision technology can use advanced processes such as infrared imaging, hyperspectral imaging, X-ray imaging and line-scan imaging. The captured image is then analyzed by specialized analysis software within the machine, ensuring precision each time.
Collaborative robots can work independently using artificial intelligence but may require some human interaction for some automation solutions. The use of co-bots in the auto industry has propelled certain manufacturers above their competitors due to speed, precision and targeted outcomes.
As technology advances further, automotive manufacturers can benefit significantly from continuing to embrace advanced robotic technology.
Stamping Press Automation Solutions
Stamping presses provide all of the stamped components used to build the vehicle body and frame. This includes parts like the body frame, floor pan and body panels - doors, hoods and deck lids.
Automation suppliers design and manufacture a variety of stamping press front-of-line, end-of-line, and tandem press transfer robotic systems. Safety is the highest priority for all stamping press solutions and implementing the latest safety standards using the most current safety controls is vital. To make automatic stamping presses more efficient, legacy controls are replaced to get the most out of your stamping process.
Vehicle Final Trim and Assembly
The final stage of automotive manufacturing is Final Trim and Assembly (FTA). The complexity of assembly tasks and the speed of Final Trim and Assembly production lines mean that less than five percent of today’s lines benefit from robotic automation.
One of the main challenges is manufacturers’ desire to produce many different models of vehicles on the same assembly line. Add in the installation of cockpit, seats, carpets and windows – each with several different specification options and colors – and the complexity grows.
For successful assembly of components by a robot, the system must be able to accurately follow a moving body. It must be capable of continuously adjusting the position and speed of the approach to avoid collision with the vehicle, which could damage the paintwork. With assembly task cycle times of only 60 seconds, the robot must hit the exact spot to secure the component to the body or interior.
Currently, the implementation of FTA automation is challenged by carmakers wanting to manufacture many different vehicle models and variants (left and right-hand drive, two- and four-door) on the same assembly line, which makes it difficult to implement comprehensive automation systems. However, the requirements for automated assembly in a continuously moving process can be reduced if, for example, models are created on a common platform, meaning several models being equipped with the same body and their points of connection to the grippers always being the same.
So far, only a few OEMs have implemented this idea of a model platform. The concept also allows carmakers who are building completely new manufacturing facilities to lay the foundation for an open system instead of having to laboriously integrate individual automated processes into existing lines. The goal for Final Trim and Assembly must be open systems in which automated guided vehicles (AGVs) flexibly approach individual automated assembly stations as required. This creates a true factory of the future, one based on modular manufacturing systems and flexible automation solutions that are digitally controlled and interconnected.
As traditional automotive industry manufacturers struggle to stay profitable in the short term and alive in the long, good workholding solutions are recognized as the key to manufacturing automation.
The automobile industry is no stranger to automation and very little in the assembly line or supply chain is not fully optimized, and even less is left to gain.
Automotive manufacturers progressed from simple mechanical automation to industrial robotics-based automation. In fact, according to the International Federation of Robotics, U.S. automakers buy 50% of industrial robots sold globally.
This article provided an overview of automotive industry applications of automation, the different types of automation employed and the uses for robotic workholding in automotive applications. Each of the applications relies heavily on robotics and automated workholding solutions.