Automated Handling of Forgings
The new robotic cell that automates the production of MQ 200 gearbox shafts was created in collaboration with several departments
roduction and planning departments are constantly looking for ways to streamline production, enable the deployment of new technologies, automate the production process and, thus, contribute to improving work ergonomics and increasing productivity. PKH/1 – Schaft Production MQ 100/200 and PPK-G – Transmission Production Planning jointly came to the conclusion that the most suitable production optimisation solution is the bin picking system, which uses a robot cooperating with a 3D industrial camera.
The debugging of the bin picking system has continuously contributed to the training of workers who receive the necessary instructions to operate the new equipment.
In the past, the manipulation with shaft forgings during the feed-in process was very demanding (depending on the type, these parts weighed between 1.7 and 2.3 kg), and it was also necessary to address the operation accuracy and speed. It resulted in a tender entered into by 30 entities and won by the ŠKODA Tool Shop. After all, this department is heavily involved in the modernisation of operations at ŠKODA AUTO plants, and its know-how is used by several Group brands. The new system starts by bringing a pallet with forgings of the gearbox shaft parts onto the robotic line and securing it in a defined position; then, the KUKA handling robot located on the line scans the pallet by using a 3D camera. In this way, the software obtains a virtual image of the forgings and, based on the algorithm, selects the most suitable forging to be removed from the pallet. Simultaneously, it determines the robot’s path for the removal. As soon as the robot removes the forging, the system performs a quick check of the correct grip so that the robot can transfer it to the desired position and then place it on the conveyor. “For this order, we used all the experience from our previous installations of 3D robotic guidance at ŠKODA AUTO, which is already used by the Vrchlabí plant in the component production (see the June 2021 issue of ŠKODA Mobil)”, says Radek Fáborský from PSW-V – Jig manufacture, which was responsible for introducing the innovation.
The camera that the system uses takes pictures of static scenes with spatial mapping and guides the robot to grab the forging, even if the pallet moves a few centimetres relative to the robot during selection. The control software allows a flexible response to customer requirements and, for example, performs demanding optical guidance of the robot in a very short cycle (almost 23 seconds). “Thanks to the interplay between all the interested ŠKODA AUTO departments during the implementation, we succeeded in debugging the new technology, training the operators on the fly and acquiring the necessary skills for operating the line. All of this enabled the smooth deployment of the new technology in serial production”, says Zdeněk Patočka from PKH/1, adding that the deployment of optically guided robots in the shaft parts production increased not only the automation of the entire production process but also the ergonomics of the operation and its capacity. ED
How bin picking works
The 3D camera scans a real bin and creates a virtual three-dimensional image of the desired scene in which items are randomly distributed. A robot then picks up the items based on the algorithm, and each of its movements automatically responds to the current situation on the pallet.