Implementing Automated Product Handling by a Collaborative Robot

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Dr. Sütő Zoltán
Department of Automation and Applied Informatics

At Continental Automotive Hungary Ltd. there are always a number of projects that aim to develop existing production lines. This was also the situation when, with several of the interns, we applied for final project tasks. One of the projects was more complex than the others, thus we decided to take it on together with one of my fellow interns.

The company produces a number of different products at the plant. The Steering department manufactures several kinds of steering servo controllers. With my partner we got the task to install a collaborative robot on the backend production line of one of these products, the MLB Evo. We decided to distribute the tasks as follows: I designed the mechanical parts including the fixing of the robot, the tool, the product grippers and the nests and he developed the program of the robot, the safety environment and assembled the control electronics.

The robot has to handle the half ready product among several working stations. The details of this handling process can be read later where I examine the current layout and equipment.

After I had examined the equipment, I built a simplified 3D model of the part of the production line that is relevant to the task. After this I had to collect and systematize the customer requirements. In this case the company was the customer and the designs had to fulfil a wide range of requirements. The designing process could be started only after I had collected these.

With this knowledge in my mind I looked at the existing solutions both at the plant and in the industry, and I started to collect several possible solutions. I had to break down the complete task into smaller design tasks. I looked at the stands of other robots, their tools and grippers used for handling similar products and the nests where the products are placed within machines or for moving. For most of these smaller parts I found several realizable solutions, thus in the end I got a combination of solutions. From these I had to choose the most suitable one, and had to design it in detail. I had to cross-check whether each of the found solutions met the requirements that I had previously collected. For the selection process I used mechanical simulations, I asked other engineers and operators, what their experience was. Instead of estimating the cost of the different concepts, I summarized approximately the cost of the final design and did accomplished some extra tasks, which will be mentioned later as well.

The last part of my task was to detail the design of the best concept. I made several iterations to some designs based on the prototypes. In other cases, after I created the first design and sent the drawings down to the workshop, they provided me feedback. They suggested some modifications, with which the parts could be manufactured more easily. After I had procured every part I also had to assemble the tool and the grippers on it. Furthermore, I made some changes to the nests of the machines too. And finally with my partner and consultant we installed the robot on the production line.


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