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Germany’s First Electric Car Factory Sets New Standards

Germany’s First Electric Car Factory Sets New Standards

The world’s largest car manufacturer is getting ready for the future. Over the next few years, Volkswagen will make a radical transition to e-mobility, and the Volkswagen plant in Zwickau, Germany, will play a key role in this process. With the ID.3 model, the blueprint for the new generation of electric cars is being created here. And the bending experts from Bystronic are also on board. Article by Stefan Jermann, Bystronic.

Much of what happens in the automotive industry goes on behind closed doors. This includes the realignment of the manufacturers towards e-mobility. But when German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself fires the starting signal for the production of the new Volkswagen ID.3, everything is already very much in the open. This was the case in Zwickau, Germany, where the production lines for what could be the most ambitious current project in the entire automotive industry kicked into motion.

The ID.3 is more than just a new model; this new electric car embodies the future of Volkswagen and is intended to usher in a new era. The group has set itself the objective of becoming the leading global manufacturer of e-vehicles. And this mission is being pursued with a vengeance. With investments of €1.2 billion, Volkswagen wants to turn Zwickau into the home of Europe’s largest e-mobility factory. This year, more than 330,000 electric cars are scheduled to roll off the production line—a total of six models from the Volkswagen, Audi, and Seat brands.

Platform for the Whole Family

So far, sales of electric cars have been sluggish. The ID.3 is designed to change this—thanks to an attractive price of below €30,000, rapid charging capability, and a range of up to 550km. Jürgen Stackmann, a member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, promises, “The size of a Golf on the outside, the space of a Passat on the inside, and the acceleration of a GTI.” 

The ID.3, the first model in the ID. family, forms the basis for a zero-emission generation of vehicles. The modular electric drive matrix—MEB for short—offers the necessary scalability from the compact car to the bus. By 2022, it will be incorporated in 27 models of four Group brands. The “ID.R Pikes Peak” prototype has already proven that the sky is the limit. On June 24, 2018, at the mountain race in the United States bearing the same name, the supercar with its 680-horsepower electric four-wheel drive made motor racing history and beat the previous record set by rally legend Sebastien Loeb by a large margin. This sports car will remain a racetrack dream, but it shows in an impressive way what the ID family can achieve.

76-second Cycle Time

Kati Langer stands in Production Hall No. 12. She is inspecting the Xpert 40, which is connected to two Kuka robots in a production cell. The passionate Bystronic saleswoman, who has accompanied the ID.3 project with Volkswagen from the outset, is proud of the system. In order to seamlessly integrate the bending systems into Volkswagen’s workflows, we had to overcome a number of structural challenges,” she explains while we watch the two bending robots at work. 

The first robot removes the part from the container station and deposits it on the centring system. The second robot picks it up, swiftly feeds it to the bending machine, and performs the first of two bending steps. Then it returns the part to the centring system and the first robot completes the remaining bending steps. Subsequently, a stationary system welds two ball nuts to the part. The gripper then picks up the part and places it on the conveyor belt. 

The entire process takes exactly 76 sec. Watching the robots perform their bending sequences is a genuine delight. If you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes, you would hardly believe how elegantly and nimbly the two robots work hand in hand—or rather, gripper in gripper. Subsequently, the bent part is installed in the support structure of the chassis where it stabilizes the undercarriage. A second fully-automatic bending cell manufactures a component that is installed at the front of the car chassis.

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Gripping And Clamping Solutions For Process Automation

Gripping and Clamping Solutions for Process Automation

In this interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Vincent Teo, general manager of Schunk, talks about the gripping and clamping challenges that their customers are facing, and how they are helping them address these issues. Article by Stephen Las Marias.

Schunk is one of the leading providers of clamping technology and gripping systems worldwide. Founded in 1945 by Friedrich Schunk as a mechanical workshop, the company has grown to become what it is today under the leadership of his son, Heinz-Dieter Schunk. The company is now under the leadership of siblings Henrik A. Schunk and Kristina I. Schunk, the company founder’s grandchildren.

Schunk has more than 3,500 employees in nine production facilities and 34 subsidiaries as well as distribution partners in more than 50 countries. With more than 11,000 standard components, the company offers the world’s largest range of clamping technology and gripping systems from a single source. In particular, Schunk has 2,550 grippers—the broadest range of standard gripper components on the market—and its portfolio comprises more than 4,000 components.

Based in Singapore, Vincent Teo is the general manager of Schunk, where he is responsible for the Southeast Asia market, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam. In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Teo talks about the challenges that their customers are facing, and how they are helping them address these issues. He also talks about the trends shaping the clamping and gripping market, and his outlook for the industry.

APMEN: What is your company’s ‘sweet spot’?

Vincent Teo: Schunk understands the needs of manufacturing companies, which have assembly, handling and machining processes. Our products can apply in multiple manufacturing sectors.

APMEN: What sort of challenges are your customers facing?

Teo: Today, businesses face the challenge of getting skilled workers—and staff retention for many industries is becoming a struggle. This is even more severe for countries such as Singapore, which depends on foreign workers. If automation can help reduce these problems and improve work conditions, then more high-value jobs can be created.

APMEN: How is your company helping your customers address their problems?

Teo: We work together closely with our partners such as robot manufacturers and system integrators, and we aim to reach out to more customers to help them see the benefits of automation.

APMEN: What forces do you see driving the industry?

Teo: Collaborative robots, or cobots, have revolutionized many applications that were impossible to think of over a century ago. Less complicated programming equates to less man-hour training, making it cheaper for businesses to adopt robotics. This is game changer, and Schunk is working with the major players in this new era of robotics.

APMEN: What opportunities you are seeing in the Asia market for robotic clamping industry?

Teo: The trend towards automated loading on machining by robots is picking up in recent years. The company is well-positioned to support this growing demand with immediate solutions.

APMEN: What about the challenges in the region? How do you see the trade war between China and the US affecting the manufacturing industry?

Teo: There has been increased investments towards Asia. This is a good problem, where we see customers valuing more our solutions to help them to increase their productivity and capture more businesses.

APMEN: What are the latest developments in robotic clamping/gripping?

Teo: We constantly develop new products in anticipation of the needs of our customers. One example is our latest product, the VERO S NSE3 clamping module, which improves set-up time and has a repeatability accuracy of <0.005mm.

APMEN: How do you position yourself in this industry? What sets you and your solutions apart from the competition?

Teo: Schunk is a unique company, having clamping technology (CT) and gripping systems (GS) solutions. With more than 11,000 standard products, no other company has a comparable scale and size across the range of products. With integrated solutions for both, we provide our customers the best opportunity to automate their processes.

APMEN: What advice would you give your customers when it comes to choosing the correct robot clamping/gripping solution?

Teo: For the machining industry, some customers often invested in clamping solutions and realized later that they need to automate their processes. When they started to review, they will realize that their investments may not be future proof. This may further discourage them towards the automation idea. Our comprehensive CT products allow our customers to later upgrade with our GS products, as both offers seamless integration.

APMEN: The trend is toward smarter factories now, with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, etc. Where does Schunk come in in this environment?

Teo: Schunk sees the need to embrace new technologies. iTENDO, our intelligent hydraulic expansion toolholder for real-time process control, records the process directly on the tool, and transmits the data wirelessly to a receiving unit in the machine room for constant evaluation within the closed control loop. With iTENDO—the first intelligent toolholder on the market—Schunk is setting a milestone when it comes to digitalization in the metal cutting industry.

APMEN: What is your outlook for the robotic clamping/gripping industry in the next 12 to 18 months?

Teo: We understands our partners’ and customers’ needs. For gripping, we have come out recently with new products to address the growing demand for collaborative robot (cobots). For clamping, our latest NSE-A3 138 is specifically designed for automated machine loading. It has a pull down force up to 28kN with integrated bluff off function and media transfer units.




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Leveraging Human-Robot Collaboration

Leveraging Human-Robot Collaboration

The industrial automation industry is facing a fundamental change and, according to SCHUNK’s chief innovation officer Prof. Dr. med. Markus Glück, human-robot collaboration in manufacturing is certain to grow dramatically in the coming years. This importance of this trend was reflected in the large turnout for the 4th SCHUNK User and Technology Dialogue on ‘Using HRC Safely in Companies.’ The two-day event featured specialists in automotive, robotics, automation and engineering as well as medium-sized industrial companies from Germany and Europe discussing the applications and opportunities of human-robot collaboration (HRC) and experiencing them up close.

Glück is confident that co-acting, meaning unrestricted interaction with robots, is on the verge of a breakthrough. The main driving forces are ergonomic relief, greater flexibility of work processes, increased efficiency as well as the expansion of logistics, loading, handling and retrofitting.

“It’s all about bringing together the strengths of humans and robots,” said Glück. Combining the speed, power, repeat accuracy and high quality of robotics with the human strengths of perception, improvisation, reaction and adaptation, will create synergy toward maximising automation.

Meanwhile, first-time projects require a substantial amount of work that should not be underestimated, according to Glück. “The usual amortisation periods of less than two years will be difficult to achieve at the beginning,” he said. He recommended a systematic approach in which the suitability of the HRC application is first assessed based on specific eligibility criteria, such as the programming cost or the ability to implement operator guidance, the cost of integrating the application into the process chain, options for intuitive training, handling and acknowledgment, moderate cycle requirements as well the employees’ relationship with technology.

He also recommended conducting a business assessment that takes into account the costs of robot procurement, commissioning and integration as well as costs for safety precautions and certification. Conversely, however, the assessment must also consider the savings achieved by lowering personnel costs and increasing productivity. Above all, first-time projects should be thoughtfully approached, carefully planned and implemented with less complexity.

The 4th SCHUNK User and Technology Dialogue featured presentations from SCHUNK product manager Benedikt Janssen, who discussed SCHUNK’s options for cobot peripherals; Jochen Vetter, team leader for robot safety at PILZ, who gave an overview of standards-compliant use of HRC as well as reliable measurement of applied forces; Dr. Alfred Hypki, senior engineer at the Department of Production Systems of the Ruhr University Bochum, who presented a standardised questionnaire, which enables fast, objective and reliable assessment of HRC potential in companies; Sebastian Keller, production specialist for the BMW Group at the Leipzig plant, who explained how HRC is successfully employed in day-to-day production; Jens Kotlarski, managing director of Yuanda Robotics in Hanover, Germany, who gave an impressive presentation on the creative potential and dynamism of start-ups in the field of HRC; and Uwe Schmidt, head of the COBOT World division of HLS Ingenieurbüro GmbH in Augsburg, who demonstrated how HRC scenarios can be implemented in the real world.



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Outlook For Global Robot End-Effector Market

Outlook for Global Robot End-Effector Market

The robot end-effector market is expected to grow from US$2.6 billion in 2019 to US$45.7 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 16.9 percent during the forecast period, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets, mainly due to the fast-changing nature of industries today.

For example, in the packaging segment, the shape, size, surface, or weight of the packaging is constantly changing, thereby shortening the lifecycle of an end-effector to one to two years, and thus increasing the cost of replacement for a company. Modular end-effectors have the capability to accommodate and handle a large variety of objects as required. Hence, the growing demand for modular end-effectors is one of the key factors driving market growth.

Until 2017, welding guns dominated the robot-effector market. However, from 2018 onward, grippers have the largest share owing to the growing popularity of electric grippers, collaborative grippers, soft grippers, and customised grippers. The report expects this trend to continue moving forward, mainly because of the fully programmable feature of the electric gripper. When programmed intelligently around the states of operation, they can reduce cycle time by a considerable amount. Because of their programmable nature, they can also be calibrated for the use of three fingers or more, and can be fitted with different fingertips.

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is expected to dominate the robot end-effector market during the forecast period, mainly driven by increasing investment in automation by the automotive, and electrical and electronics players, especially in countries such as China, South Korea, and India. The increasing adoption of collaborative modular robots by manufacturers has also elevated the demand for modular robotics in APAC.


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Schunk’s Universal Compensating Unit Enables Intuitive Bin-Picking

Schunk’s Universal Compensating Unit Enables Intuitive Bin-Picking

Schunk’s AGE-U universal compensating unit enables reliable gripping without having to first detect the exact position and location of the gripping object. Its complex design combines angled, lateral and rotary compensation and applies sensor detection once deflection takes place.

When bin picking, ferromagnetic blanks can be picked up by a magnetic gripper without having to detect their exact position or orientation. All that is needed is an approximate localisation, using equipment such as a simple 2D scanner. In addition, the module can compensate for tolerances and position deviations in six axes during automated assembly.

The AGE-U has combined rotation and angular compensation, allowing the end effector to fully adapt to the undefined component position or to feed through insertion operations with gripped components. In the X and Y directions, the maximum possible compensation is ±2.7mm. In the Z direction, it is ±6.1mm. Laterally, the compensation around the X axis and Y axis is at up to ±3 deg, rotationally, it is at up to ±8 deg around the Z axis. While the return to the basic position is achieved both via springs and actively via compressed air, the flexibility of the unit can be adjusted individually by regulating the air pressure. At a pressure of 6bar, the unit is switched to a completely rigid mode, eliminating uncontrolled movements during the handling system process. Both the locked status as well as the deflection of the unit from the basic position can be monitored via inductive monitoring of the locking piston.

The compensation module is recommended for handling weights up to 5kg and can be connected to a wide range of industrial and lightweight robots quickly and easily using the standardised ISO-50 flange without adapter plate. The housing made of anodised aluminium and the functional components made of hardened steel ensure a long service life and reliable operation with minimal maintenance costs. The Schunk AGE-U is designed for one million compensation cycles.


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Quick-Change System From Schunk Handles Weights Up To 50kg

Quick-Change System from Schunk Handles Weights Up To 50kg

Schunk GmbH & Co. KG has released a pneumatically actuated robot quick-change system that allows fast and process-reliable changing of different gripping systems and tools at the front end. With its four optional module attachment surfaces, the SCHUNK SWS-046 offers a wealth of options for supplying the connected pneumatic, hydraulic or electric effector. High-power modules, self-sealing fluid modules and servo modules are also available.

The SCHUNK SWS-046 features a large number of modules for connecting actuators and sensors electrically, such as for PROFIBUS, PROFINET, CAN, RS232 and EtherNet TCP/IP. These modules can be supplied with signals via examples such as mechatronic grippers or force/torque sensors.

The SWS-046 screw connection diagram corresponds to robot side ISO 9409-1-100-6-M8. Schunk also offers an optional centring collar plate with ISO flange pattern, so that the module can usually be used on most robots without the need for an additional adapter plate. The patented ‘no-touch locking-system’ facilitates a reliable tool change even if the head and the adapter are up to 2.5mm apart from one another.

In the event of an emergency stop or a sudden power failure, the patented self-retaining feature of the locking system ensures a process-reliable connection between the quick-change master and adapter. A piston stroke monitoring system that is also integrated can be used to monitor the locking state of the module at any time. The maximum permissible moment load is 678Nm (Mx, My) or 882Nm (Mz).


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New Mounting Clamps For Cobots

New Mounting Clamps For Cobots

Safety plays a key role when humans and robots work hand in hand in the industry. That is why users of cobots and industrial robots are already using igus’ multi-axis round triflex R e-chains for energy and data supply. To easily attach these energy chains and increase work safety in industry, igus has now developed new plastic mounting clamps. With quick installation, these minimise the risk of injury with their rounded edge design. By igus

In the course of Industry 4.0, the interaction between humans and machines is increasingly becoming the focus of automation. Therefore, collaborative robots will play an increasingly role in the future. Currently, cobots are mainly used as assistants in simple or interacting activities and – in contrast to large and fast industrial robots – work hand in hand with humans. For reliable energy supply to cobots and industrial robots, igus offers the optimal energy chain solution with its triflex R range. In addition to metal clamps, customers can now use new cobot designed clamps to attach the energy chain to the robot arm. The design with rounded edges increases workplace safety by reducing the risk of injury when in contact with the robot. The plastic clamps can be quickly attached to the arm of the robot by a screw connection. The triflex R is simply attached to the clamp by a clip and fixed. The new clamps are suitable for cobots from Universal Robots, TMS and Kuka LBR iiwa robot arms.

Triflex Energy Chains For A Safe Energy Supply On The Robot

The triflex R range has been specifically developed for sophisticated 6-axis robots in industrial environments. By combining the flexibility of a hose with the stability of an energy chain, the round triflex R ensures reliable cable guidance in multi-axis movements. A ball/socket principle ensures high tensile strength and easy installation of the e-chain. The interior separation is freely selectable. The circular bend radius stop and the high twistability of the e-chain prevent the over-stressing of cables – this system increases the service life and operational reliability of the application. The triflex e-chains are available as a complete package with cobot designed clamps, cables and connectors immediately ready for connection.


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