Pneumatic automation in the automobile industry
Over the years, all the successful automobile manufacturers have reduced their supplier base for vehicle components from several thousand companies to just a few hundred companies. Where earlier automobile plants were designed to receive and process thousands of components, they are now supplied with complete door systems, interior fittings or braking systems.
This trend has impacted the way plants are being conceived and built. Production plants are generally built around the capabilities of special plant manufacturers, so-called line builders, who take responsibility for building the plant as quasi general contractors. The need to innovate task and value addition of all machinery systems and subsystems is now being felt by all concerned.
Automation technology is the heart around which mechanical equipment is given greater speed, safety, reliability and intelligence. Despite the role of advanced electronics and software based systems, pneumatic components and systems continue to reliably undertake major tasks in the Automotive industry, such as:
Handling and transporting sheet metal parts in the press shop
Component clamping and fixing, positioning welding tongs for the unpainted body shell
Nozzle control in the paint area
Assembling or feeding units in final assembly
Holding and clamping of piston rods in any position during clamping, processing or handling tasks
Clamping unit with compact design
The piston rod can be held in position for long periods even with alternating loads, fluctuating operating pressure or leaks in the system.
In order to avoid downtime, components which must meet certain specified standards are being increasingly used in manufacturing plants so that maintenance personnel can replace defective components more quickly. Complete solutions and special services, are however needed to support the special or proprietary needs of automobile manufacturers and tier-1 suppliers throughout the world.
Contributory factors in plant productivity are preventive maintenance and time-optimised and controlled systems. Intelligent systems, for example, provide data regarding switching cycles which facilitates strategic and planned maintenance. Diagnostic aids provide maintenance staff with assistance in identifying defects. Controlled or user definable systems reduce the cycle time and optimise the process. Valve terminals and cylinders with diagnostic capabilities or intelligent systems for welding tongs are now available.
Pneumatics application in the unpainted body shell area when the welding tongs need to be transported, held, gripped and fed.
The sturdiness, simplicity and reliability of pneumatics reduce maintenance and defect identification costs. Furthermore, pneumatic drives also provide additional supplementary functions such as guidance, adaptation and sensing options which come practically "free". With pneumatics, "intelligent" and cost-effective systems can also be realised, as has been demonstrated with welding tong drives.
- Manoj Dunung