High-volume, high tech
thyssenkrupp Bilstein is a manufacturer of high-tech automotive suspension systems.
Operations manager Aldo Albieri and manufacturing engineer Doug McIe evaluate the programming for two cobots, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.
The John Adams cobot picks and places a part, a step that is followed by a gauge inspection. “Be-fore, we would check two parts every one or two hours to make sure that we were still where we thought we were; but now we have 100% inspection,” according to Doug McIe, manufacturing engineer.
One of the most eye-catching applications at tk Bilstein’s Hamilton, Ohio, plant features the James Monroe and John Quincy Adams cobots working in tandem to assemble Active Damping System dampers. The multi-step cycle starts once Monroe picks up an innertube and feeds it to a punch machine, then places it on a transfer fixture. At that point, J.Q. Adams picks it up and loads it into a “marriage station” — grabbing an outer-tube and joining them together, and then placing the combined unit on the exit chute.
The Martin Van Buren cobot works in the Hamilton plant’s Aftermarket section, performing the post-fill crimping on automotive-suspension assemblies, picking it up, loading it into a machine, and ending the cycle by holding the crimped part up for camera inspection.
The most recent cobot colleague is John Tyler. The UR10 is equipped with a Cognex machine-vision camera and moves between inspection points to make sure suspension units are properly assembled and labeled.
tk Bilstein’s Industry 4.0 team uses the RoboDK software certified through the UR+ platform to be plug-and-play with UR cobots. Here, the software is used to simulate two UR10 cobots on a seventh axis range extender from Vention, also a UR+ certified product.
Machine operator Quenna Quarles used to perform tasks that now are automated and performed by cobots. “Now we can flow much better - production-wise - and my job is easier, as I just load the tubes and let the cobots take care of the rest,” she explained.
Sharing the work
“There is not such a big barrier between the people and the technology now,” according to operations manager Aldo Albieri. “The cobots share the workspace with our employees, who can simply use the teach pendant to operate the cobots, as the interface looks more like an iPad than a robot controller.”