Manufacture of front and rear aprons for passenger cars
While the development of composite exterior parts for the vehicle industry takes place on computer systems, production is still dominated by manual labor. An Austrian manufacturer of plastic and composite parts has made the switch to robot processing and is delighted with the results.
Polytec Car Styling in Hörsching works with customers in the automotive industry to conceptualize, develop and produce both small series and original exterior parts made of composite materials. Their services include design, CAD engineering, model and tool making, production and all the requisite logistics.
Whereas the processing of front and rear aprons for passenger cars used to involve intensive manual labor on a conventional rig, a robot cell has now shown that there are other ways of doing the same job. Since it entered operations, the plant in which front aprons are made for well-known sports car manufacturers has set standards in the processing of composite parts.
Robot processing and manual work in harmony
A Stäubli six-axis TX200 robot contributes the desired level of flexibility. This versatile industrial robot is capable of taking on milling, drilling and grinding work on various exterior parts. With the Stäubli machine, the composite parts can be processed in a single pass – at speed, at low cost and with high precision.
But the TX200 is more than just fast and accurate. Because it is working in dusty conditions, the encapsulated design affords it the merit of absolute reliability. In addition, the six-axis machine with its range of 2.2 meters is capable of handling the full spectrum of tasks.
The robot cell is equipped with an automatic tool changing station from where the TX200 collects the end effector that is required by the current job. The individual stages of the manufacturing process for the front apron are drilling holes, milling the cut-out sections and preparation for painting by mechanical activation of the surface. The robot performs the complex sequence of tasks with high precision in just a few minutes.
Faster, more flexible, more profitable
A comparison with the traditional way of working in model and mold making demonstrates the advantages of this technological advance. One look at the mechanical setup used for the manufacture of front aprons in the past makes the difference to robot processing instantly apparent. A total of 8 power tools – from the top milling machine to the handheld electric drill – are grouped around the elaborate rig. The operator had to perform each individual step of the process in sequence, using the relevant tool or machine.
The arrival of the robot marks a significant move towards automation. The plan is to restrict manual intervention to the post-processing of relatively inaccessible areas. At Polytec, they are not pursuing a policy of full automation at any cost but rather introducing it where it makes sense. This mix of manual input and automatic robot processing guarantees excellent flexibility and productivity, creating a hybrid solution that successfully combines profitability with quality.
The use of the Stäubli TX200 shortens the time spent exclusively on machining by at least 30 percent, depending on the model variant. Further time savings follow from the elimination of the need to construct a conventional rig: teaching a new model variant to the robot is a matter of a few hours compared to a period of days that was formerly necessary for the construction of a new rig. Even component changes by the client – which in the past often led to labor-intensive modifications to tools and fixtures – can now be programmed into the robot control panel with a few clicks of a mouse.