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Filling the missing piece: Final Trim and Assembly get the robot touch

Author : Nigel Platt, Lead Business Manager

02 November 2020

While many of the tasks involved in vehicle production have been automated, the Final Trim and Assembly stage has remained largely manual. Nigel Platt, Lead Business Manager for ABB Robotics UK and Ireland, explains how developments in robotic automation are helping to fill this missing piece.

Automotive manufacture is the classic use case for robotic automation; robots are used to weld car bodies, paint them and install heavyweight items. Speed of production, accuracy, and repeatability – together with the avoidance of injury through arduous tasks – have seen them become widespread in these applications.

Yet, the complexity of assembly tasks and speed of Final Trim and Assembly (FTA) production lines mean that less than five percent of today’s lines benefit from robotic automation.

One of the main challenges is manufacturers’ desire to produce many different models of vehicles on the same assembly line. Add in the installation of cockpit, seats, carpets and windows – each with several different specification options and colours – and the complexity grows.

Using robots is challenging because of variations in the production line’s speed and the inherent vibration of the AGVs or conveyors used to transport the car body to the FTA station. 

For successful assembly of components by a robot, the system must be able accurately to follow a moving body. It must be capable of continuously adjusting the position and speed of approach to avoid collision with the vehicle, which could damage the paintwork. With cycle times of assembly tasks just 60 seconds, the robot must hit the exact spot to secure the component to the body or interior. 

Read the full article in the November issue of DPA

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