A delta robot solution that is no more difficult to integrate into your system than any other standard automation component? Mark Simms takes a look at the latest part of Omron’s innovative Sysmac platform. These days machine builders who develop machines for the packaging industry are facing ever increasing challenges to provide designs that will
On the face of it, there are not many parallels between vehicle production and packaging machinery. However, the challenges are very similar, particularly in the increasing need to offer manufacturing versatility, dealing efficiently with different products. Mass production used to be a synonym for standardisation – “you can have any colour as long as it’s black” – but over the years, requirements have changed. Now individual car assembly lines need to produce several different types of vehicle, preferably without stopping production: it’s very similar to the requirement for packaging machinery to offer rapid changeovers to deal with different products and pack styles.
In the car industry, ABB’s revolutionary new FlexLean robotic cell is designed to help meet this need for versatility. The key is flexibility. Manufacturers might want to build four different models on the same line, with the potential for up to eight, so the FlexLean cell replaces fixed tools with position controllers using new mini-robots which can handle an unlimited numbers of parts.
The mini-robots are located at each side of the production line and adapt to the sizes of the oncoming vehicles, assembling parts, drilling holes, welding, etc. For the motion control, Omron provided MP2200 controllers and 400W Sigma III series motors with a Mechatrolink II bus, which offer the necessary flexibility. The system can handle a maximum of 80 axes per car model, controlling 20 mini-robots: an ABB database holds the appropriate coordinates for each vehicle. The assembly line is co-ordinated via an Ethernet connection between the MP2200 and the PLC, while the host PLC sends commands via Profibus to pick up the cars.
When a new model is introduced, it is simply a matter of programming the robot coordinates, which can be done off-line with simulation software. This modular approach offers both unique functionality and exceptional flexibility. The high-performance motion controller provides sequence, motion and process control and is capable of controlling 256 axes of motion.
ABB’s FlexiBase solution eliminates the need for special car carriers which are used to transport the vehicles through the assembly process. A factory producing 800 cars a day might need 80 different carriers, which take up a lot of space. Flexibase means neither special transport nor bulky and expensive tools are needed, so the costs savings are considerable. Moreover, manufacturers can have different models in different countries as they wish, without the need to develop new carriers: the system offers complete flexibility.
Omron was heavily involved in the product, delivering motion control expertise, helping with product development, and training technical staff. As a result, the solution was delivered in just two months, and ABB expects to sell not only into the automotive market, but also to other sectors.