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Innovative Flexible Automation for Powertrain Assembly
Apex, NC , June 21, 2016
ABB Powertrain Robot Systems and Ford Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering recently completed the joint development of a Flexible Cylinder Head Assembly (FCHA) system. The ABB FCHA design improves upon traditional serial assembly systems by allowing multiple cylinder head architectures to be assembled simultaneously without the need for time-consuming and production-halting changeovers. The innovative technology provides a modular and flexible platform based on parallel processing, minimizing, and in many instances eliminating the use of dedicated stations. This incorporates redundancy for critical operations and allows production volumes to be easily adjusted, as required.

A complete FCHA system features fifteen ABB robots comprised of four different medium and high payload 6-axis models. Certain modules within the system can be integrated into existing, traditional cylinder head assembly stations, such as installation of plugs, sealer dispensing, valvetrain assembly, and test.

ATI Industrial Automation’s Robotic Tool Changers and Six-Axis Force/Torque Sensors are featured extensively in the FCHA system and are integral to its success. ATI’s Robotic Tool Changers provide flexibility to the robot by allowing it to change end-effectors automatically. The FCHA system includes several sizes of ATI Robotic Tool Changers allowing the system to handle up to three different cylinder part types. ATI’s wide range of Tool Changer models allowed ABB to maximize the payload and moment capacity of each of the four different robots.

A small stainless QC-11 Tool Changer was used with its small size and axial air ports being critical to achieving a 110mm minimum spacing of the adjustable pitch 20kN servo press. This allowed the FCHA system to press two parts at a time, saving cycle time and reducing the number of machines required to meet Ford’s cycle time requirements. ATI developed a small, compact tool-ID module for the QC-11 providing a unique identifier to each press tool.

ATI’s OMEGA85 model Six-Axis Force/Torque Sensor was also a key component of the system, providing the ability to install valve stems with minimum force. The OMEGA85 measures all six components of force and torque in a compact rugged transducer, sending extremely accurate information to the robot. This allows the robot to virtually “feel” the part and react appropriately to the force, increasing its precision and minimizing any potential part damage.

“ATI is an extremely valued supplier to ABB Robotics and has been very helpful in making custom changes when needed,” said Pat Matthews, ABB’s Global Powertrain Group Manager and Vice President Robot Automation Systems, North America. “They have been a tremendous asset in achieving the high level of innovation and performance of the FCHA system.”

The first four FCHA systems are bound for Ford engine plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Ford has designated the system as an internal Bill of Process (BOP), establishing it as the new design standard for all cylinder head assembly lines installed at Ford engine manufacturing systems. The technologies and methods utilized within the FCHA system are adaptable across a wide spectrum of applications and products, opening up potential for the design components to be applied to a wide variety of alternative uses and industries.

More information on ATI Robotic Tool Changers here.

More information on ATI Six-Axis Force/Torque Sensors here.

More information on ABB's FCHA Assembly System here.

ATI Robotic Tool Changer and Force/Torque Sensor mounted on the wrist of the robot.

ABB's Flexible Cylinder Head Assembly (FCHA) system.

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