Collaborative robot from KUKA assembles armrests in a screw-fastening application at automotive supplier

A KUKA cobot of type LBR iiwa is used in production operations at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors in Lüneburg. The collaborative robot screws together the armrests for the doors of the Opel Insignia, relieving the employees of monotonous tasks and increasing the efficiency.

Collaborative robots enable new forms of production 

Yanfeng Automotive Interiors (YFAI) is a leading supplier of automotive interior trim. As part of the future-proof orientation of the production locations around the world, the processes at the Lüneburg plant in northern Germany are also being adapted step by step towards Industrie 4.0.

In the first step, YAFI decided to integrate a cobot into the production line, where the operators now share their workspace with a KUKA LBR iiwa. “Cobots like the LBR iiwa enable us to make production processes even more efficient. Thanks to their sensitivity, they enable entirely new forms of production because safety fencing is no longer required, and inflexible manufacturing lines become obsolete,”, says Michael Oji, plant manager at YFAI’s Lüneburg site.

The LBR iiwa and the human operators share the same workspace.

A cobot for high payloads

The collaborative robot screws together the armrests for the doors of the Opel Insignia. For this purpose, it is equipped with a screwdriving head weighing 13 kilograms, developed by Stöger Automation GmbH and specially tailored to human-robot collaboration systems. This end effector is enclosed in a protective cover to guard against injuries. The robot switches off immediately if any contact is detected.

High payload: the cobot handles a screwdriving head weighing 13 kilograms.
Automated screw fastening on armrests

KUKA LBR as a screw-fastening robot

“The robot has the task of freeing up our employees in armrest production from tiring and repetitive work processes,” Michael Oji explains. Two operators prepare the armrests for the screw-fastening robot by loading an injection molding together with a leather covering into a machine tool which laminates the two elements of the component. The laminated component is then clipped to another injection molding. In the next step, the operators place the armrest into a fixture of the LBR iiwa application.

At the push of a button, the robot starts the work process. It moves to the fixture and screws the two components together. New screws are fed continuously to the screw-fastening robot through a tube attached to the protective cover. The cobot always chooses the most efficient route for screwing the components together. Waiting times are thus avoided. The fully assembled armrests are unloaded by the operators and racked ready for shipment. 

The KUKA robot has already paid for itself. On top of that, our colleagues have quickly familiarized themselves with it. The employees did not require any special training for operating the robot.

Michael Oji, plant manager at YFAI’s Lüneburg site

Collaborative robot achieves the desired success

The LBR iiwa has been in operation at YFAI since December 2017. “The screw-fastening robot works extremely efficiently, relieving the employees of a monotonous task,” says Michael Oji. The two operators and the robot produce sets of armrests for 45 vehicles per hour. That corresponds to 180 assembled armrests. Convinced of the KUKA cobot, YFAI is already planning further automation projects at European plants.

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