ABB partners with Changan Ford to boost Chinese carmaker’s flexibility

2014-05-20 – Long a car-industry mantra, “flexible production” becomes a reality at Chinese automobile plant – with help from ABB Robotics

It takes just 18 seconds for the Ford Motor Co. and its partner, Changan, to switch between vehicle models on a production line where ABB robots ensure one of China’s biggest carmakers can react quickly to shifting consumer sentiment, rising demand and a changing economy.
To put those 18 seconds in perspective, the joint venture’s plant in Chongqing, in southwestern China, can go from making Ford Mondeos (in the U.S., think Fusions) to any one of as many as five different models faster than sprinter Usain Boltrunsthe 200 meters.ABB’s robots also ease introduction of completely new models to the line, too, an advance from traditional production lines that required more extensive work before a new model could be added – hardly ideal if consumers’ tastes change quickly.

“Flexible production,” a car-industry mantra since the 1990s, is becoming a necessity in China and the rest of the world as auto manufacturers accommodate customer expectations that can turn faster than prices at the gas pump while ensuring factories are prepared for sweeping demand swings like the one that accompanied the Great Recession.
“The economic downturn has been tough on automakers and highlighted the need to be more adaptive to the demands of the market,” said Yuan HenXin, Manufacturing Engineering Manager for Changan Ford. “This is especially true when it comes to being able to respond quicker to changes in customer preference, as well as remain competitive in a fierce industry.”

How fast?
Changan Ford, with its facilities 900 miles upstream from Shanghai on the Yangtze River in one of China’s auto manufacturing hubs, is actually an expansion of a long partnership between Ford and ABB Robotics. It’s already boosted flexibility of the carmaker’s operations.

In 2012, for instance, ABB Robotics installed a Tube Press and Weld System to make axles and gears for the F-150 Pickup truck, among other vehicles, at the Ford Sterling Axle Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. Now, a complete changeover between axle types can be completed in less than 43 seconds _ not as fast as Bolt’s 200, maybe, but faster than Michael Johnson’s 400-meter world record.

Working now with Changan Ford in China, ABB’s FlexLean Automotive Bodyshop Solution is deployed at the stage of production known as “Body in White”. That’s industry shorthand for when the car’s body is just beginning to take shape, including assembling raw stamped metal body panels into a welded frame.

First, the car’s underbody arrives for ABB robots to begin the gluing process, making it possible for up to six different models to be produced on the same production line. This flexible robotic production line has the unique ability to adapt, on the fly, for cars of different widths and lengths without a moment of stopped production, because of ABB’s robotic technology.

Flexible ABB robots do the heavy lifting

Next, the roof goes on, also with ABB robots doing the heavy lifting before turning to high-speed brazing, accurate laser welding and polishing that gives Changan Ford’s cars’ exterior the kind of finish consumers are seeking.

In minutes, each new frame has acquired the stiffness necessary for safety.

And in just seconds, the line is ready for the next car – even if it’s a different model.

“This philosophy uses robotics technology to replace traditional custom-made machinery with standardized solutions,” said Alan Stapelberg, Global Product Manager of ABB Robotics Body-In-White Portfolio. “These products are modular in design and flexible, allowing multiple car models to be produced on the same line and new models to be added easily.”

The world’s No. 1 car market – and rising

Changan Ford says replacing custom machinery – typically designed specifically to produce just one vehicle model – with ABB’s standardized, flexible solution allows them to reuse the hardware investment across new models, saving them money and making a lot of financial sense.

Additionally, life is made easier for maintenance workers who now have comprehensive maintenance documentation and spare parts close at hand.

And with the production line’s machinery all running on the identical language as ABB’s robots, operators need less training and can get to work more quickly as new models are added, Changan Ford said.

Increasingly affluent consumers have already made China the world’s No. 1 market for cars, at 20 million-plus units sold in 2013 and rising.

With Chinese wages set to rise more than 10 percent this year, its residents will have even more buying power to demand safer, higher-quality, Internet-connected cars.

“With this increasing prosperity, the market will continue to grow, meaning high-volume production which can only be accomplished with full automation,” Changan Ford’s Yuan said, adding global cooperation is key to modern vehicle manufacturing. “ABB Robotics is a good partner for us in this regard.”




ABB Robotics. Italy. Pizza Making with ABB FlexPickers


Publicado el 16/05/2014

Prodal of Italy, established in 1994, produces frozen bakery products. They selected ABB’s FlexPicker robots to automate the preparation of high-quality frozen pizzas, whilst preserving the taste of true Italian “hand made” tradition.’

Source: ABBRobotics

ABB Robotics create new jobs in Finland

Industrial automation and robots can provide great opportunities for businesses. For Finnish car builder they brought more work.

Two hundred ABB robots are busy at work manufacturing the modern Mercedes-Benz’s new A-Class cars at Valmet Automotive’s factory in Uusikaupunki in Southern Finland. The contract signed in 2012 was Finland’s largest robot order ever.According to Pasi Rannus from Valmet Automotive, the reason for employing robots is simple: they ensure high quality, reliable and efficient car manufacturing. 

“We would not manufacture the A-Class cars in Finland without the robots. Industrial automation is a necessity in contract car manufacturing. It is about productivity, competitiveness, delivery and quality requirements. Robots guarantee that we have work.”


Automated manufacturing lines
On the new production line the robots undertake tasks such as spot welding, gluing and material handling. The majority of the robots are installed on a completely modernized body-in-white line. The welding line at the factory needs to achieve over 90 percent utilization every production day. As the robot tasks are related to each other, the individual equipment utilization is actually 97 percent. 

The factory will produce more than 100 000 vehicles in the period 2013 to 2016. Robots are a prerequisite for the survival of industrial jobs in Finland, otherwise the jobs will move to countries with lower labor costs. “Automation and robots are rather a great opportunity for industrial manufacturing. Content and the complexity of the work are only changing,” says Rannus. 

Comprehensive design work ensures fast start-up
Simultaneous engineering and strong project management of both product and the production process guaranteed the launch of the new A-Class production quickly and efficiently. Although the factory hall was still empty, 80 to 90 percent of the design work had already been done, which saved a lot of time during the installation of robots. 

“The robot line design and programming are part of our core competence. In the engineering phase the robotized manufacturing cells are modeled on a virtual 3D world for optimizing the cell layout,” says Rannus. 
.Dull, Dirty & Dangerous tasks 
Else where in Finland robots are also helping remove people from unsuitable working conditions. “Work in hot, cold, or otherwise challenging circumstances for health is being replaced by robots” says Timo Toissalo from ABB.

“For example a customer in a cheese factory could not get any more human cheese packers as the work was cold, wet, and there was a lot of work-related sickness absence. When the packaging line was automated with robots, the job descriptions changed to provide more rewarding work and those jobs became highly sought after,” 

“The only challenge now is to find the right kind of people to operate the robot systems. Those skills are currently not taught at any school” says Toissalo. ” We require vocational training, a good attitude and willingness to learn. The best robot experts are 20 to 30 years old. They learn fast since they have grown up with game consoles.”


ABB introduces design and color change for new era of robotics

IRB 6700 robot

2014-05-14 – In 1974, ABB introduced the world’s first all-electric, microprocessor-controlled industrial robot. During these last 40 years, the robotics industry has seen an amazing amount of innovation and incredible improvements. As ABB’s product offer has evolved and changed dramatically, one thing has remained constant: the color of the robots.

BackwhenABBwasintroducingroboticsproductsthatwerepreviouslyunheardof,itwasfeltthe colororangewasappropriateforsafety.Wewanted tohelppeoplerememberthattheywereworkingwith apowerfulpieceofequipmentthatwaspotentiallydangerous.But timeschange,andABB has tochangewiththem.We are now entering a new era of robotics, one in which collaboration between humans and robots is a reality. Recent advances in software and hardware have enabled a new generation of robots that can safely work next to people. In the past, a bright color was needed to keep humans away, but this new era of robots should be more welcoming.

At the same time, ABB has changed as a company. We are realizing our unique ability to deliver complete global solutions, and the ABB brand is stronger around the world. A new design language and color ensures our robots are easily identifiable as ABB products.

“Today we are launching a new look that is both more modern and better suits the era of collaboration,” says Per Vegard Nerseth, Head of ABB Robotics. “We call this new design language ‘Dynamic Design,’ and it is built around the concept that ABB provides efficient solutions for a dynamic world. Not only does the new look adopt unique forms and shapes, it also comes with a new color, Graphite White.”

The best example of this design change can be seen in our recently introduced IRB 6700 robot (pictured above). From the curves on its arm to the new colors, the design language that all of our robots will adopt is evident. Starting in May of 2014 all of ABB’s standard robots will ship in the new Graphite White color and every newly designed robot we release from now on will also be based on the dynamic design philosophy. Traditional orange will remain a free option through the end of 2014, but customers will still be able to order our robots in any color they want.

ABB Robotics is proud to have been such a strong influencer of the last 40 years of robotics development. With this fresh, new design language we are preparing ourselves for another 40 years of incredible innovation and strong collaboration with our partners around the world.

Source: ABB Robotics

ABB Robotics – Palletizing Bags at Lupin Foods, Australia


Publicado el 13/05/2014

A high speed, flexible, robotic palletizing system is helping an Australian food manufacturer meet rising global demand for healthy food.
David Fienberg of Lupin Foods comments “Accessing high quality labor has been a real challenge for us. The solution we’ve developed means training is now simple, and we are able to mitigate the health & safety risks associated with the continuous lifting of 20kg bags.”

Source: ABBRobotics·

Packaging for a modern world: It’s a complicated thing, but it doesn’t have to be

The ABB IRB 120 robot, with its compact footprint and agility, packing tubes of hair color for L’Oreal in Canada

The packaging industry is changing rapidly; ABB and its partners provide the expertise and robotic solutions to meet the flexibility required by these new demands.

If you’re involved in the packaging industry you know quite well that it has undergone some dramatic changes recently—and have likely experienced them firsthand. Whereas once it was commonplace to have long production runs and a relatively limited group of standard package sizes, end-users are now more interested in on-demand packaging, short production runs, mix-and-match variety packs and individualized packaging configurations.

In addition, the time between ordering a new production line and the start of production is shrinking while the containers themselves are becoming more intricate in order to be pleasing to consumers. When all of these factors are taken together, it’s enough to make even the most hardened production supervisors lose sleep—or even hair.

Equipment manufacturers are realizing the truly profound impact they can have on the profitability of a packaging operation by the way in which they design a solution—and the smart ones are responding by thinking outside of the conventional box. Certainly, it takes a broad understanding of the dynamics of the packaging process to provide an innovative solution that meets the challenges of today’s market place.

By replacing conventional machines with industrial robots, a large portion of the headaches associated with the demands of the modern packaging industry can be met head-on. Six-axis robots provide the flexibility needed for incredibly dynamic production environments, while sacrificing none of the speed or accuracy of conventional equipment.

Innovative and highly flexible packaging solutions

Take XPAK for instance: As a robotics integrator specialized in packaging, they have created a system that provides virtually unlimited flexibility with the ROBOX™ robotic case erector—a solution that is not only more flexible, but actually reduces overall system complexity and cost. It eliminates the knobs, wheels, dials and mechanisms on a conventional case erector and replaces them with a fixed tool over which a robot slides an unopened flat container and delivers an erected and taped container—all within its compact footprint.

“Once we realized we needed robotics, we had to find the right partner,” says XPAK VP of Business Development Juan Ortiz. “That’s when ABB stepped in and provided us with the technical resources to leverage their technologies and come up with the right solutions for our customers. Whereas traditionally we had conventional equipment encompassed within a frame, now we have a robot that’s free and can be far more functional.”

Automating giftbox assembly

And when BDMO, an innovative packaging provider in Belgium, needed to find a way to speed up production of their popular Vivabox gift packages to meet exploding demand, they realized quickly that the last portion of their packaging process before being filled with product was a severe bottleneck.

The BDMO robot assembles 1,000 boxes an hour

In that last step, thermoplastic trays were inserted by hand because they are relatively thin, they flex, and the fit has to be tight. Up to that point of the process, automation produces 1,000 boxes every hour. That meant that seven people were needed to keep up with the flow of boxes at the end of the line, one every three seconds. After being frustrated by this bottleneck, BDMO turned to Robotics Integrator Viscon to come up with a solution.

Viscon’s winning offer proposed a ‘pick-and-place’ system that could handle 1,200 trays an hour. The tight fit problem was resolved by using the 6-axis functionality of ABB’s IRB 120 robot; it inserts the tray at an angle before pushing it firmly down to the base and onto spots of glue. This solution had previously been out of the reach of conventional equipment. 

After fine tuning, the system was able to handle 1,400 trays an hour and left BDMO in the enviable situation of having to figure out how to increase production upstream by an additional 15%—ironically the preceding parts of the line had now become the bottleneck.

Four months from first thought to full production
Meanwhile, at L’Oreal, demand for the company’s INOA hair coloring product had been jumping as a result of its position as the world’s first ammonia-free permanent hair color. In order to meet this demand, L’Oreal in Canada realized it needed to ramp up production immediately and decisively. (pictured above)

Their flagship plant in Montreal was chosen as the site of production for the new line and was given only four months from the initial order to start of production—a gargantuan task. “It was a huge challenge,” recalled Guy Fafard, the plant’s technical supervisor. “When we discussed it with our production manager, he said there was no way we could design and install a new production line in such a short period of time. He said it simply couldn’t be done. But we had to find a way to make it happen.”

Fafard turned to PharmaCos Machinery, a local leader for turnkey solutions in pharmaceutical and cosmetics packaging equipment that often does custom, “needed-it-yesterday” production projects for L’Oréal. In addition to the tight deadline and the use of an explosion-proof tube filler (because INOA uses small amounts of alcohol in place of ammonia), the new line needed to be able to take tubes, put them in trays and load them into a ready-to-ship package.

According to Sylvain Gauthier, PharmaCos’s technological development director, such a two-step, two-micro-stop cartoner process would normally be done manually. However, it was critical that the new line always keep moving, because a stop would cause the pressurized fill to overfill the first tube due to the positive pressure in the reservoir. 

In the end Gauthier decided to go with ABB’s IRB 120 robot, due to its compact footprint and agility, and had the line up and running within the four month deadline. “It was an amazing accomplishment,” says Fafard. “It shows how important it is for a company in such a fast-moving industry as cosmetics to develop relationships with contractors who can respond quickly to our needs.”

Modern robotics packaging solutions: Fast. Agile. Compact. Flexible

In all of these cases, robots have proved themselves critical to creating the flexible, agile and speedy packaging solutions that today’s packaging operations need to remain competitive. Modern robotic systems from ABB and its partners can deal with speeds and situations that humans simply can’t, as well as handle things that were previously thought to be impossible to automate. They can fit into very small footprints and eliminate the conventional equipment that typically needs large, fixed spaces to work.

In short, industrial robots can now handle almost any packaging task, but it takes a team of knowledgeable experts to turn that kind of power into an optimized and truly flexible solution. With ABB at your back, you know that expertise is available anytime and anywhere—for any type of project. 

Source: ABB