KUKA BOLT: Smart conveyor for assembly buffering

Based on independent cart technology, the modular and linear KUKA BOLT transport system solves assembly buffering challenges – and features extraordinary flexibility.

Conveyance strategy is key

In any automotive body shop, transferring subassemblies accurately and efficiently from Point A to Point B is critical. But achieving optimal throughput is not just a matter of speed. It requires a conveyance strategy that can accommodate downtime in some systems without slowing production in others.

Achieve output goals despite potential roadblocks

Buffering zones address this challenge and enable plants to achieve output goals despite potential roadblocks. Based on accumulating conveyors, buffering zones allow one system to feed another at a steady rate – and store the output of a producing system if consumption slows or stops down the line. But in recent years, as body shops moved toward mixed-model assembly and began assuming production for more subsystems, conventional buffering often fell short. Buffering systems have grown beyond their original intent, and the system that was supposed to keep the plant running didn't have the necessary agility and was prone to downtime itself.

KUKA BOLT relies on independent cart technology

To address the realities of the contemporary assembly plant, KUKA recently developed the KUKA BOLT buffering overhead linear transport system, which is in sharp contrast to conventional “over under” conveyance configurations. Unlike conventional buffering, which uses friction-based conveyance, the KUKA BOLT relies on independent cart technology from MagneMotion®, a Rockwell Automation company. The system features QuickStick® intelligent conveyors.

The Power of Embedded Intelligence

Comprised of a linear motor and built-in motor controller, the QuickStick system uses integrated position sensing to enable independent control of separate carriers on a loop-style track. Accelerations, decelerations, velocities and positions are programmable. Linear motor technology makes the KUKA BOLT a very smart system. Since position sensors are embedded into the motor, you know exactly where each carrier and each part is at all times.

KUKA BOLT is bidirectional

Conversely, conventional conveyors rely on external proximity sensors to monitor pallet movement on the belt, but are unable to control or track individual payloads. And while conventional conveyors run in one direction only, the KUKA BOLT is bidirectional.

Because the intelligent system always knows where all parts are, it can automatically and independently transport the proper model as needed.

Victor Schoenek, Director Advanced Technology Group, KUKA in North America

The KUKA BOLT is also an efficient solution that eases proper sequencing in multi-model plants. To help achieve the correct part sequence for each vehicle, many plants establish selectivity banks, with separate conveyance systems transporting the parts for each model. 

Modular and linear KUKA BOLT transport system for assembly buffering

Fewer Components. Easier Maintenance.

Featuring a modular design, the KUKA BOLT system is also built for easy maintainability. Essentially, there are very few things that can go wrong on a 
BOLT system, because there are so few components.

The KUKA BOLT includes an

  • extruded aluminum track,

  • solid-state QuickStick linear motor technology,

  • zero-maintenance carriers,

  • roller cluster wheel assemblies.

 

The health status of the linear motors is independently monitored for power draw changes to enable predictive maintenance. In the rare instance a motor must be exchanged, the KUKA BOLT delivers alerts through the control system. And if a roller cluster or wheel needs repair, the system pinpoints exactly which carrier is having the issue. In contrast to friction-based systems, repairable components are easily accessible from outside the track.

Poised for the Future

Perhaps the real beauty of the KUKA BOLT is its adaptability to a wide range of industrial applications – and future manufacturing requirements. This system isn’t restricted to automotive assembly plants. It is an ideal choice for a wide range of scenarios. Regardless of industry, the modular, pre-engineered design allows customers to easily add more track sections or change the track configuration to fit a different application. Historically, buffering conveyors were expendable – each new plant or application requiring a new system. KUKA has changed that mentality. We think the KUKA BOLT is the last conveyor you will need.

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