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Advanced Robotics Automatically Identifies and Measures Non-Conformities During Final Assembly

When it comes to final automotive assembly, the problem of nonconforming gaps and flush alignments can result in production slowdowns as well as higher rework costs. To address this issue, Comau has developed a fully automated gap and flush verification system that uses advanced robotics and an intelligent vision system to measure potential defects on multiple, dissimilar parts while a vehicle is moving along the final assembly conveyor. It does so by identifying and inspecting alignment points along the entire car body, collecting the corresponding data and flagging nonconformities.

Comau’s dynamic inspection solution has a direct impact on overall line performance, explains Nunzio Magnano – Chief of Body in White & General Assembly Global Competence Center. “As evidenced during our Stellantis Factory Booster Challenge, it saves time and reduces the potential of human error when compared to manual measurement processes, thanks to the speed of the industrial robot and the ability to evolve the traditional “accept-reject” decision into a precise numerical value.” states Magnamo.

The Challenge

Until now, gap and flush alignment verification has been done via a manual check within a stationary control cell. The challenge in developing an automated alternative was two-fold. First, Comau engineers had to effectively manage the wide variety of parts, colors and materials that would be inspected and measured. Second, they needed to ensure consistent performance with a robust yet flexible system that could accurately distinguish measurement tolerances for the hood, doors, tailgate, and more, on a slow-moving vehicle body. Furthermore, the proposal needed to meet the targeted 12-month payback goal.

The Solution

Comau has developed an innovative inspection framework that fully automates a traditionally manual process.  Pairing its industrial speed RACER-5 COBOT collaborative robot with powerful control software and an integrated EDIXIA vision system, the customer can dynamically identify and measure alignment points along the entire car body, collect corresponding data and monitor the quality. The use of Comau’s high-performance collaborative robot also allows operators to safely intervene without the need for protective barriers, further reducing cycle times and streamlining the nonconformity rework process. More importantly, it delivers predictive quality data regarding production trends that can help car manufacturers avoid bottlenecks, and subsequent productivity losses, on the final assembly line.

The Results

Comau unveiled the innovative solution during the 2021 Stellantis Factory Booster Day challenge.  With the ability to control more than 50 different points on a moving vehicle and a productivity rate of more than 60 jobs per hour, the verification system both automates and enhances a traditionally manual process. Furthermore, it delivers a level of precision that only an industrial robot can offer, with positioning repeatability on the measuring point of just a few tenths of a millimeter compared to over 1 mm with an operator. As such, Comau’s gap and flush inspection solution provides customers with a powerful and cost-effective way to ensure quality and conformity in a consistent and highly accurate manner.

The project’s success has also served as a launching platform for tailoring the state-of-the-art system to meet multiple Body in White applications for which gap and flush quality are important, such as the hood, doors, tailgate or fenders when they are mounted on the body in the hanging line.

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