Autonomous robots to manufacture innovative car interiors

Automotive plastics supplier, Nifco, has partnered with German firm toolcraft to develop autonomous robot cells to manufacture innovative car interiors.

Autonomous robots - Since the components are visible after installation and gap dimensions need to be accurate to a tenth of a millimetre, the entire process had to be reliable and precise - image courtesy of toolcraft.
Since the components are visible after installation and gap dimensions need to be accurate to a tenth of a millimetre, the entire process had to be reliable and precise – image courtesy of toolcraft.

Thanks to the collaboration between Nifco and toolcraft, interior plastic parts will be manufactured by fully autonomous robots working inside a multi-component injection moulding cell.

The objective was for the plastic parts, which are produced using 3K injection moulding and reinforced with around 20% fibreglass, to be processed using a robot. The parts are between 200 mm and 1,000 mm in size and the robot must achieve a precision of +/- 0.1 mm.

Further requirements taken into account when constructing the robot cell included the integration of tool management and a tool changer as well as two rotary tables capable of processing the parts more quickly.

The entire cell had to be designed as a closed system. It is able to accommodate eight different components (RFID) and boasts an integrated chip extraction feature. toolcraft also took care of the offline programming.

The combination of tool management, measuring systems and component recognition is essential for enabling the requirements to be met consistently throughout the processing procedure. Ensuring a compact yet user-friendly design presented an additional challenge when constructing the cell.

Moreover, toolcraft made sure that freeform surfaces can be programmed to make them suitable for processing by the robot. It is also possible to make adjustments and corrections in the event of component warpage. Including the time required to assemble the system at the client’s premises, the solution was reportedly up and running within 16 weeks.

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