SICK’s sensor and camera technology provide visual guidance to robots on Ford production line

Monday, Nov 30, 2015

Automotive manufacturers the world over are increasingly relying on automation and standardisation of process workflows to remain competitive in the global market.

The Ford plant at Niehl near Cologne uses an innovative and fully automated robotic solution in two workstations on the production line. The robot is being used to screw the airbag module in the passenger compartment as well as the locking clip striker for the tailgate. RESA Systems, an automation specialist from Saarwellingen, Germany, was appointed as the main contractor for the project with SICK supplying the sensor and camera technology to process all relevant information.

The application involves an industrial robot screwing the airbag module into place on the centre console of the car while a second industrial robot screws the tailgate striker into place. Once the car body has entered the station, a scanner detects the car body data and sends the information directly to the controller. The robot for the airbag module picks up the appropriate module in its gripper and then positions it in the car before screwing it into place.

The five different airbag modules are brought to the robot's discharge station on an inbound belt approximately ten metres in length, having had their position and load checked upstream by the Lector62x image-based code reader. A VSPM-6 Inspector 2D vision sensor from SICK detects the exact position of the threaded bolt for the airbag module. A nut infeed system with singulation supplies the nuts for screwing the airbag into place.

The second robot (in the robot cell) screws the tailgate striker into place with a template used to position the striker beforehand. The VSPM-6 Inspector is once again used to detect the exact position of the screws for the tailgate striker.

As the intelligent image processing solution in the sensor package, the VSPM-6 Inspector checks and measures objects even in high-speed production processes. Its powerful object finder supplies accurate data regardless of the position, size, and angle of rotation.

The Lector62x image-based code reader by SICK is being used by Ford for the first time in final assembly at its plant in Cologne. Tailored specifically to meet industrial requirements, the Lector62x identifies 1D, 2D, and directly applied codes on moving or stationary objects, even if the quality of the codes is poor. The camera is linked directly to the plant controller.

According to Klaus Pübben, key account manager at SICK, a single software solution is able to process all read types, and is also one of the factors enhancing the company’s ability to position itself on the market as a full-service supplier.

Pübben explains that SICK is always able to provide a solution to meet individual requirements from 1D and 2D codes to 2D vision and RFID among others. SICK has developed its own user interface SOPAS (SICK Open Portal for Application and Systems Engineering Tool) to serve as a configuration tool. He adds that SICK’s holistic approach, which enables the company to offer their customers the right all-encompassing solution for their specific requirements, is also increasingly in demand on the market.

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