Automating the manufacturing of rims with plastic inserts
How to install car rim inserts industrially? In early 2018, a Eurofit customer requested the Vigo plant in Spain to deliver rims and tire-wheel assemblies (TWAs) with plastic inserts. Rim designs with plastic inserts are not new to the car manufacturing industry. They have, however, become more popular recently as they make rims lighter, can improve aerodynamics, and allow for more sophisticated designs.
Obviously, the system to create these TWAs must be able to meet strict cycle times in order to remain cost-effective. Moreover, the Vigo plant wanted to integrate the system into the existing manufacturing space and wanted to avoid special construction. All these requirements and challenges were taken into consideration.
Based on the required volumes by the Eurofit customer, it was crystal clear that a manual approach for the process of creating these TWAs and rims was not an option. It would simply take too long to manufacture the required numbers. The solution was to develop a completely new process to install car rim inserts industrially using robotics. The Vigo plant set up a special project team that started to research the possibilities of automating the process as much as possible. The team found a local partner to work with, experienced in the process and product design using virtual reality (VR). With the aid of VR, all stages of the process were defined and analyzed. VR also allowed for the new process to be simulated as well. These simulations were key in optimizing the process and engineering the automated solution, in which robotics plays an important role. Putting together the technical knowledge and expertise, available at the Vigo plant, and the support of the external partner, a machine was constructed that automates large parts of the manufacturing process.
Today, the operator applies the insert on the rim in the feeding area. Next, a robot picks up the wheel with the plastic rim inserts in place and takes it to the automated screwdriver station where the inserts are screwed on with five screws simultaneously. The system ensures a tightening torque within the limits and tolerances defined by the customer for each of the screws, and all data is registered to ensure traceability. The whole automatic concept including the innovative robot tooling which picks up the wheel together with the plastic inserts is patent pending. This way of installing car rim inserts industrially is unique.
Check out the video below:
The machine was realized through close collaboration between the Vigo project team and the external partner, and it is now fully operational, meeting all the customers’ requirements, including the high quality. It is also a showcase of how Eurofit promotes innovation and supports the initiatives taken by its plants. Eurofit is very much focused on stimulating the different plants to come up with ideas to improve processes and boost efficiency to help Eurofit’s customers to remain competitive through high service and reduced cost.