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Articulate gantries keep axle production moving

Articulate gantries keep axle production moving

When Midlands-based MTI Welding Technologies was asked by a German customer to design and build a new automotive production cell, integrating its world-leading double head friction welding technology with a series of product conveying and handling systems, it turned to Güdel for the supply of gantry robots.

The production cell handles axle sub-assemblies that consist of three individual parts: the main axle tube which is 1.4 metres long, 150mm in diameter and weighs 70kg; and two steel forged and machined spindle hubs, which each weigh 18kg. The tubes are presented to the main gantry on a Güdel supplied infeed conveyor. They are then located and radially orientated, before being picked up by the Güdel ZP5 2-axis gantry robot which loads them into the double-head MTI friction welding machine. This robot spans the complete cell and has dual heads, one at the load side and the other at the unload side of the system.

Also within the manufacturing cell is a smaller, 4-axis Güdel FP3 gantry robot which is used to pick the spindle hubs from trays. The parts are then radially orientated using an integrated machine vision system, and loaded to a specially tooled pallet conveyor system which transports them to the main gantry, used to load the welder.

Both left hand and right hand spindle hubs are loaded to the conveyor system which transports them to the main gantry robot ready for collection. The main welder loading gantry then picks the spindles up, alongside the axle tube it picked previously, allowing it to load all three parts simultaneously into the friction-welding machine. The robot places the main axle tube to the welder clamp system, to retain the radial orientation, before loading each spindle hub to a collet chuck. This dual head concept on the main gantry robot optimises the unload/load time between machine cycles, allowing a completed assembly to be produced by the system every 70 seconds.

Meanwhile, a second head on the ZP5 robot unloads a completed assembly from the friction welding machine, moving it to the Güdel-supplied output conveyor and allowing a fresh set of three individual parts to be loaded ready for the next welding cycle. In addition to the ZP5 and FP3 Gantry robots, Güdel UK also integrated the Siemens control system to the robots and designed and manufactured the component gripper systems.

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