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AUTOMATICA 2014: Focus on automobile production

AUTOMATICA 2014: Focus on automobile production
Lightweight construction is on the agenda in automobile production, but the struggle to reduce every kilogram of weight possible presents challenges to production strategies. New production processes and technologies are required if light construction concepts are to be viable with respect to costs. AUTOMATICA, in Munich from 3 until 6 June 2014, presents innovations to the international automation industry that are based on changes of production technologies in the automobile industry.

Starting from 2020, European automobile manufacturers will be faced with stricter limiting values for CO2 emissions. "German automobile manufacturers are working full steam to reduce CO2 emissions. The development of highly efficient drive concepts, engine downsizing, new transmission generations and weight optimization have already resulted in significant improvements over the past years. In spite of all progress, additional efforts are required to comply with the restrictive EU guidelines," according to Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, Managing Director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).

The topic of light construction is at the top of the priority list in this context. Less weight means less consumption and consequently fewer emissions. However, despite the simplicity of the theory, its implementation in production is difficult: light construction materials such as aluminum, magnesium and CFRP are much more expensive than steel. And: their processing requires new technologies and manufacturing processes.

A look into the BMW Leipzig Plant - the pioneering electric vehicle i3 is being developed there - reveals the radical production differences compared to conventional automobile manufacturing. The vehicle architecture is based on a completely new concept. The i3 is separated horizontally. The passenger compartment, the life module, is on the drive module, which contains the complete drive including batteries. The chassis is made of an aluminum frame, while the high-strength and ultralight passenger compartment is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Both modules are glued together after their complete assembly. This bonding technology has decisive advantages and is perfectly suited for binding different materials.

Certainly, the prestige project BMW i3 has a long way to go from a production point of view before the vehicles can be manufactured in mass production. Light automobile construction is on the agenda for all models and goes hand in hand with material combinations and new materials as well as machining and joining processes. Now, system integrators as well as robot and component manufacturers are all challenged to create the technical production requirements for OEM and TIER 1 with bundled innovation energy.

Everything could already be seen clearly at AUTOMATICA 2012. Not only the major industry players ABB, Fanuc, Kuka and Yaskawa presented pioneering developments, but also other manufacturers provided surprises with technology highlights for light automobile construction.

For example, Stäubli exhibited a newly developed milling robot, which is designed specifically for machining reinforced carbon composite materials. "CFRP machining has its own laws. Fast, precise robots with a considerable work range are in demand here. The presentation of our CFRP machining robot at AUTOMATICA generated considerable interest. The machines have been in use at OEMs and component suppliers since then, both in plastics and CFRP machining," according to Manfred Hübschmann, Managing Director at Stäubli Robotics.
 

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