Robotic Riveting Multi-Part Production Cells: HAHN Automation partners with KUKA

HAHN Automation is a global specialized
machine builder placed in the automotive, consumer goods and healthcare industries. The market of specialized machine building is quite unique. Sometimes
customers approach us and they already know exactly what they want, which makes our job very easy. But as specialized machine builders we really thrive on the
opportunity to learn with the customer. When the customer came to us with a
challenge of riveting and punching their heat shields, we worked closely with their
engineers developing on-the-fly the process that’s required in order to
achieve first of all their quality but also their cycle time. We were given the
challenge of developing the entire process, manufacturing parts. And in this
cell there are seven variants of parts both large and small, various shapes and sizes. We had to make sure that every cell could produce every part. The rivet was the main challenge for us. The rivet is very flexible. You can’t just go down and grab it, so we had to grab it in multiple places to support it so the robot could
engage in different steps and pull that rivet in. The place where the rivet has
to get in, it has to really work its way in and in between the press and the part
it’s just really challenging to get to that. So it took a lot of studies and
mechanical design and then programming it and working together as teams to figure
out the best solution. We prefer KUKA’s robots for a couple of
reasons. First, we have a very good relationship with KUKA. Secondly, KUKA has a more advanced controller than the other competitors. We really like the
flexibility in the programming language. It’s almost really open source for us so
that we can talk to the PLC, talk robot to robot and create our own solution to
achieve what we need to do. Normally, when we have multiple robots in the cell they do not occupy the same space. In order to meet their cycle time, we were required to
have both robots moving at the same time while preventing collisions. The capability
of the controllers allowed us to have the two robots interface very tightly to
coordinate their motion. That capability gives us a lot of benefits. It’s a cell that’s flexible for the
long-term for the customer. By using robots and two robots working together
it makes the possibilities infinite for the customer with all their different
parts in the future. They can produce far more parts in a shorter amount of time.
It also requires very little manual labor. The operators simply loads the parts and presses an OPTO button. Robots come up, pick it up and complete the part and place it back in the load station. So a
single operator can control any cell. Over the next five years we’re going to
continue to push use of robots, the use of collaborative robots, assembly and
test equipment, along with early flexible solutions and operator-friendly
equipment. The future for robotics and automation is fantastic. As an employee, you get to work on building machines and answering challenges that you may not even know exist today. I believe this industry is on a great growth path into the future.

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