Fichter Maschinen GmbH places its trust in Yaskawa: High-end robotics automate the market success
30. January 2017
Fichter Maschinen GmbH of Eichstetten near Freiburg, Germany, designs and constructs assembly systems for the industrial processing of metal, rubber and plastic parts. The system solutions range from semi-automated assembly machines to fully automatic assembly systems in the core areas of joining, gluing, laser welding and ultrasonic welding. The company, which was founded in 1992, has 73 employees including eight trainees and 25 developers, and generates annual sales of 7.3 million euros. Assembly machines and systems are developed and manufactured primarily for automotive suppliers (60%), followed by the electrical industry (20%) and medical technology (20%). Fichter receives its orders mainly from German customers, although special machines are built for export. Recently an assembly unit for the manufacture of an engine component was delivered to Transylvania in Romania. As a systems partner to Yaskawa, Fichter has for many years placed its trust in Motoman industrial robots.
Largest robot system in the company’s history
The design work for the largest and most sophisticated robot system ever to be built by Fichter began in mid-2015: ten Yaskawa Motoman MH12 type robots link and automate 25 processing stations of the Fichter modular system. All machines and systems contain a high portion of standardized assemblies from the Fichter modular system. The compatibility of the components permits short implementation times and end-to-end functions and processes.
The task was extremely challenging due to the exacting customer requirements. It included the process-reliable assembly of nine individual parts, each with several versions of five different modules, continuous traceability, autonomy of 30 minutes and operability of the system by only one employee.
The decision to use robots for handling was made at an early stage of planning because individual parts had to be rotationally mounted and turned. This was the only way to guarantee the required high degree of flexibility on account of the different versions. Also, a portal system was ruled out due to the limitation in the length of the unit.
The majority of the robots used are equipped with a twin gripper system that in one cycle per station always removes a part and inserts another. The unit works with a cycle time of 20 seconds.
The most important assembly processes of the fully automatic system are:
• Servo motor-driven joining and crimping modules with force/path monitoring
• Greasing of individual parts with weighing system for monitoring grease consumption
• Test stations for height, diameter, torque, concentricity and axial run-out
• Marking and labelling
All individual parts are fed in by standardized systems from the Fichter modular system: Fichter BoxStore, StepStore, StackStore and SlideStore. Due to the complexity of the assembly process, the system is additionally interlocked by a workpiece carrier system, the Fichter DuoFloor.
Motoman MH12 handling robot
The Fichter engineers decided on a 6-axis robot from Yaskawa’s Motoman MH series. With the Motoman MH12 handling robot they opted for the fastest model in its class, designed for a payload of 12 kg. At the same time, the slim design of the Motoman MH12 permits a high robot density. With robot developments such as the Motoman MH12, Yaskawa wants to give its customers in the automotive industry and related branches a decisive competitive edge. The MH12 fulfils the requirements for robots that operate with extreme precision and an unusually high number of cycles. Furthermore, due to the small footprint the models can be positioned closer together.
Each pair of manipulators is coordinated by a high-end controller: the DX200 twin. As one of the world’s most experienced robot manufacturers Yaskawa has invested the many years of expertise of its engineers in the new generation of DX200 controllers. The DX200 offers over 120 application-specific functions. Other new features are further bus systems and the integral safety controller: It makes the DX200 a complete Category 3 functional safety unit (FSU). With up to 32 definable safety zones and 16 possible tools it enables smaller working areas and optimum utilization of the production area. As a further advantage, several partial processes can be carried out simultaneously in the human-robot interface – and the corresponding safety standards are always guaranteed.
Likewise new: the DX200 is designed for simpler integration of peripheral devices. With patented multi-robot technology, up to eight robots or 72 axes can cooperate synchronously. The DX200 twin systems used at Fichter permit the coordination of two robots with up to 18 axes. Because each robot knows the position of its fellow robots, a “crash situation” is ruled out. The robot density in the assembly facility can thus be optimally exploited. High performance and availability are in turn ensured by Advanced Robot Motion technology (ARM). The latter guarantees industry-wide, standard-setting path guidance and reduces teach times.
The system developed and manufactured by Fichter Maschinen GmbH – incorporating Yaskawa MH12 robots and DX200 twin controllers – is capable of inspection and complete tracing of every single component at any given time. Errors, should they occur, can thus be tracked and quickly remedied. For this purpose great importance was attached to the integration of state-of-the-art information and communication technology – in Industrie 4.0 production interlocks with the digital world. End-to-end process data monitoring is used for the diagnosis and adjustment of assembly procedures, and remote maintenance for timely support and optimization by the manufacturer. The networking of all stations in Fichter’s primary control, together with the connection to the customer’s PPS and the standard user interface, also enables optimum operation for type changing.
The system is designed to facilitate, if needed, problem-free and fast relocation and restarting. This is possible due to the Fichter RoboCell platform, on which all function modules of the system including the Yaskawa robots and DX200 twin controller are installed. With this technology self-contained modules are formed.
The Fichter system was put into operation in autumn 2016. It gives the customers of the Baden-Württemberg machine manufacturer a clear competitive edge – reliable operation in 21 weekly shifts, short set-up times of less than 20 minutes for other parts, archiving of all production and measurement data and a simple, clear structure that greatly facilitates operation and maintenance.
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