Machine Builder Expects Designs Will 'Transform' Shop Floors

Comau came to EMO 2015 with a new vision, and new capabilities

There are at least two visionary strains at work in manufacturing technology: one is practical, involving wider and more complex process automation and information networks; another is aesthetic, involving high-concept industrial redesign of machining systems and work cells, so that workshops take on the enlightened mood of showrooms. Comau — which specializes in integrated and automated manufacturing systems for automotive production, particularly auto frame joining / assembly, and powertrain machining / assembly — arrived at EMO 2015 in Milan to demonstrate some of its visions for future-oriented manufacturing.

Comau, a business unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, tapped an affiliated FCA business, CNH Industrial’s design team, to develop a new design philosophy for its manufacturing systems, one that will “characterize the DNA of (Comau’s) entire future product range.”

Noting the new design concepts depart from the familiar appearance of industrial automation system, Comau called the vision “futuristic, contained and attractive,” intending for it to “dictate a transformation of the traditional shop floor environment in terms of quality, precision, cleanliness, and aesthetics.”

“Comau’s new design concept is a direct response to the importance of industrial automation, and a testimony to the technological excellence of our offer. Current and future products cannot be developed without considering the importance of their design, not only in term of aesthetics but also functionality and ease of use. By making our machines more transparent – physically as well as metaphorically – we are bringing the values of quality, performance and precision directly to the factory floor,” according to Gianluca Bianco, COO of Comau Powertrain Machining and Assembly.

In addition to the new design concept, Comau introduced several new production process specialities.  SmartDriveComau 800L is a horizontal machining center that functions both as a single machining center or as an integrated unit in a flexible production line. Linear motors allow SmartDriveComau 800L to achieve competitive cycle times thanks to their high processing speed, and to accurately maintain this production rate up to five times longer drive systems based on ball screws. This operating method will decrease the number of machining centers required, according to Comau, which reduces the per-unit production cost per piece. It also reduces floor space requirements, optimizing the plant layout.

Comau also demonstrated its “Safe” robotics technology with the Racer999 robot (7 kg payload, 999 mm reach) and a Dual Arm robot concept that uses the newest, compact robot, the Racer3.

AMICO is Comau’s contribution to the emerging field of “humanoid” robotics, devices that are flexible for application as machine-to-machine devices or man-to-machine cooperative systems.  The developers call AMICO a “technical and communicative concept” that represent the robot’s ability to work in small spaces with maximum precision and flexibility. As an extension of Comau’s Racer3 automation technology — a high-speed, 6-axis articulated robot with a 3-kg payload, a reach of just 630 mm, and weighing 30kg — the AMICO can be mounted in any position with extensive range and flexibility for bending and reaching the surrounding space.

The AMICO is fitted with two Schunk SDH2 grippers, a multi-articulated gripping system with three fingers and able to grab a range of objects. Two of the gripper fingers can change orientation to adapt to a wide variety of applications. The gripper also is able to recognize each surface and release the necessary strength through a specific sensor. In addition to its precision, the robot to determine whether gripping is optimal or needs adjustment.

According to CEO Mauro Fenzi, “As the market can verify, Comau continues to reach beyond supplying cutting-edge products and solutions. Our role is to interpret and guide our customers’ needs by leveraging innovative technology, industrial integration, project management know-how and resource efficiency to increase productivity and flexibility.”

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