Robotic Manufacturing For Automobiles

Robots give automotive companies a competitive advantage. They improve quality and reduce warranty costs; increase capacity and relieve bottlenecks; and protect workers from dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs. Car assembly plants use robots extensively for spot welding and painting, but there are many other opportunities to use robots throughout the supply chain. OEMs, Tier 1s and other automotive part manufacturers all stand to gain from automotive robotics.

Manufacturers turn to robots for many reasons. In the automotive industry, three of the biggest drivers are quality, capacity and safety.

Quality Gains

Robots reduce part-to-part variability. Highly repeatable, they never tire or get distracted, so every cycle is performed the same way. That reduces waste caused by human error, and it also means less variability in car assembly. This, in turn, translates to higher customer satisfaction and fewer mistakes.

Addressing Capacity

Automotive supply chains run lean with minimal inventory to buffer against production delays. Automotive part manufacturers strive for consistent takt times, and problems at bottleneck operations can stop an assembly line. Robots don't suffer end-of-shift fatigue, so cycle times are constant all day, every day. What’s more, running robots through breaks and shift changeovers yields additional output from production processes.

Protecting Workers

Many jobs in automotive manufacturing are hazardous. Sometimes, the dangers are obvious, as when pouring molten metal in a foundry. Other times, they're more insidious, like the musculoskeletal disorders resulting from lifting, twisting and repetitive motions. Automotive robotics address these problems, cutting accidents and injury claims by taking workers away from these dirty and dangerous tasks.

Automotive Applications for Robots

There are thousands of parts in every car and truck, and it takes myriad manufacturing processes to make them. Advances in automotive robotics technology, like vision systems and force sensing, mean more of these than ever are suitable for robotic automation. Here are some the best suited application areas:

  • Welding (Spot and Arc)
    Large robots with high payload capabilities and long reach can spot weld car body panels; while smaller robots weld subassemblies like brackets and mounts. Robotic MIG and TIG arc welding will position the torch in the same orientation on every cycle, and repeatable speed and arc gap ensure every fabrication is welded to the same high standard.
  • Assembly
    Tasks like screw driving, windshield installation and wheel mounting are all candidates for robotic automation in car assembly plants. In many automotive part plants, robots like the high-speed “Delta” machines are assembling smaller parts like pumps and motors.
  • Machine Tending
    Unloading hot moldings from an injection molding or die casting machine, and loading and unloading CNC machining centers are all good examples of robots tending production machines.
  • Material Removal
    Because it can follow a complex path repeatedly, a robot is an ideal tool for light trimming and cutting tasks. Examples include cutting fabrics like headliners, trimming flash from plastic moldings and die castings, and polishing molds. Force-sensing technology that lets the robot maintain constant pressure against a surface has enabled more of this kind of application.
  • Part Transfer
    Pouring molten metal in a foundry and transferring a metal stamp from one press to the next are unpleasant jobs for human workers, but they're ideal robot tasks.
  • Painting, Coating and Sealing
    Able to follow a programmed path consistently, robots are widely used for painting in car assembly plants, but are also good for spraying coatings like sealants, primers and adhesives. Plus, they can lay a uniform bead of sealant prior to assembly.

Learning More About Robotic Automation

Car assembly operations and automotive part manufacturers are some of the biggest users of robots. Robots are easier to program and deploy than ever, but every integration project comes with unique challenges. That's why manufacturers interested in adopting automotive robotics should work with an experienced integration partner. Acieta has completed more than 4,000 automation projects over the last 30-plus years. To learn how we can help with your next project, contact us today.

To discuss known automation opportunities or discover new ones: