Innovative automation solution with KUKA robots
The automotive industry is continuously raising the quality standards demanded from component suppliers, this being one of the reasons for the innovative automation solution involving KUKA robots. In addition, the industry is expecting greater capacity for higher quantities, while furthermore new legal regulations on emissions limits in exhaust purification are imposing the need for product innovations and, with that, enormous flexibility in production.
Last but not least, the weight of the parts used in the Roth-Technik silencers, ranging from 120 up to 150 kg, is increasingly exceeding the handling ability of human workers. There was an urgent need for automation. “Line 8” is used for making multiple variants of silencers, i.e. it had to be possible to expand the manufacturing line easily, as well as to convert it for other production types. In addition, it had to be possible to increase the quantity as required. This required significantly reducing the cycle time.
At full capacity utilization, that meant doubling the produced quantity from 60 to 120 per shift. In addition, two existing machines had to be integrated into the new solution, and were regarded as fixed parameters. The automation line had to link not only handling but also arc welding tasks. Furthermore, it needed to be possible to move parts ranging from 150 kg down to delicate, small items.
Mounting and welding robots as teams
In total, the production line incorporates 20 different stations, 12 of which are straightforward welding stations. The three KR 270 R2700 ultra robots are mounted on the KUKA KL 1500 linear unit and transfer the silencers to the various workstations. In order to attach various smaller, individual parts onto the silencer, two small handling robots of the KR 5 R850 type are integrated into the welding cells.
The robots pick up individual parts from a magazine and position them exactly against the silencer in order to be tacked or welded on by the welding robot. Five KR 16 L8 arc HW welding robots complete the manufacturing line. This type of robot from KUKA is regarded as the specialist for arc welding, above all when it comes to welding relatively large components. The hollow wrist design with a 60 mm passage opening integrates the torch and fluids supply from a wide range of manufacturers, meaning that the welding packages are always protected; this also guarantees greater stiffness and lower vibrations.