Embracing cobots on the assembly line

Vitesco Technologies

In short

Vitesco Tecnologies Italy is one of the world's leading names in the production and development of key components for modern endothermic engines, manufacturing injectors, EGR valves, and particulate filter regeneration systems. To maintain its leadership and competitiveness, Vitesco has moved decisively down the automation route, implementing a wide range of solutions including 24 cobots from Universal Robots that now perform complex assembly of DDU (Drying and Distribution Units), fuel rails and RDU (Reduction Dosing Units). The versatile cobots also handle product inspection and palletize armatures on Vitesco’s production lines. The introduction of the cobots significantly cut cycle time and freed line operators from ergonomically unfriendly tasks.

The challenge

Vitesco Technologies Italy has two production plants in the Pisa Province of Italy. The plants develop key elements for modern endothermic engines, relating specifically to fuel injection and management of exhaust emissions. These components present some of the most complex assembly challenges in the powertrain sector and require extremely flexible and precise automation solutions that guarantee high repeatability.

With its long experience in automation, the company was determined to adopt industry 4.0 solutions through robotics and automation, making extensive use of lean manufacturing and work cell design techniques. The applications implemented on the line were developed through pilot projects at the advanced technologies lab. For Vitesco Technologies Italy, it was essential that the robots should operate in open workspaces shared with the operators, to facilitate intervention, and guarantee flexibility and extreme precision. The solutions they chose are from Universal Robots.

Vitesco Technologies

Industry Automotive & Subcontractors
Country Italy
Number of Employees 1000+
Cobots used UR10, UR5 & UR3
Watch a fleet of UR cobots perform complex assembly tasks at Vitesco Technologies
Welcome additions

Welcome additions

The UR cobots are the centre of the production line of DDUs, key components in the regeneration of diesel engine particulate filters. The assembly line has a 30 second cycle time and deploys a UR5e cobot (5 kg loading capacity and 1.5 m operating diameter) installed on a ceiling-mounted 7th horizontal axis and three other UR5e cobots on a line cycle in an adjacent station.

The cobot installed on the 7th axis loads the components to be assembled on the station and removes the finished product at completion of the assembly cycle. Integration with the linear axis gives the cobot an extra degree of freedom for enhanced flexibility.

The second UR5e cobot, located in the neighboring cell, applies a holding device on the component. In this case, use of the cobot provides flexibility and ensures application safety, allowing the cell to remain open so that the operators can interact with the production process and carry out any necessary maintenance. The third and fourth cobots apply lubricant to the finished product and handle a series of process control cameras, using artificial intelligence protocols to check that all the components are present.

We began using the Universal Robots cobots in 2016. Their introduction has enabled us to improve the ergonomics of many processes, freeing operators from tasks with low added value and boosting our productivity and efficiency.

Alessio Papucci , CDO - Chief Digital Officer – Vitesco Technologies Italy

Cobots on the assembly line

Taking on repetitive tasks

Taking on repetitive tasks

On the fuel rail production line (one of the diesel engine components that present the highest degree of assembly complexity), ten UR10 cobots (with a 10 kg payload and a reach of 1300mm) positioned in pairs on five identical assembly lines play a vital role. Their job is to automate component loading and unloading, previously performed manually. The cobots were installed on the line without requiring any substantial changes in the layout and production structure: a result made possible by the collaborative nature of the cobots that have built-in safety systems enabling their use without fencing (based on a risk assessment).

The introduction of the cobots has cut cycle time by 11% and freed the line operators from more than 70% of the most repetitive and ergonomically unfriendly operations.

Powering the palletizing cycle

Powering the palletizing cycle

Thanks to a UR3 cobot, Vitesco Technologies Italy has freed an operator from the physically demanding and repetitive task of palletizing armatures on a metal tray. On this application, a belt conveys the armatures to a selector, which positions them on the pick-up spot by means of an overhead electric axis moving in parallel with the direction of the conveyor and a pneumatic axis, which moves perpendicularly to the conveyor. When the armatures are in position, the UR3 cobot picks up two at a time with a customized double gripper and palletizes them on a metal tray. The palletizing pattern was developed with Polyscope wizard. After lowering the speed and acceleration of the application to reduce wear on the joints and ensure greater precision, the Vitesco decided to use a double gripper able to pick-and-place two armatures in the same cycle to optimize productivity. A crucial area on which the company has focused is versatility: with a series of simple adjustments, such as the gripper modification and the selection system, the company is able to manage and palletize a variety of components, for a diversified application.

Adapting to different parts

Adapting to different parts

To lower polluting emissions, modern diesel engines are fitted with Selective Catalyst Reduction (SCR) catalyzers, that cut nitric oxide emissions by using a reducing agent injected through a Reduction Dosing Unit (RDU). Five UR5 models have been installed on the RDU assembly line for the application of a protective rubber component on the RDU tubes. The product design has a wide range of tolerances to accommodate the assembly of a variety of subcomponents, which is why high insertion flexibility is needed during assembly.

To guarantee handling of caps of various dimensions, the Robotiq cobot gripper has adaptive capabilities and its own strength control to ensure the right reaction during forced insertion. The application has eliminated no-value manual operations and improved line efficiency.

Adding value and productivity

Adding value and productivity

Thanks to the Universal Robots cobots installed on its lines, Vitesco Technologies Italy has significantly improved the ergonomics of its internal processes. Specifically, the automation of a series of complex assembly tasks previously performed manually has allowed the company to move its workers to jobs with greater added value, optimizing throughput.

Second, the company has benefited from the flexibility and collaborative nature of the UR cobots: the machines operate largely in open workstations where operators can intervene if necessary.

Finally, significant reductions in cycle time have been achieved on a range of processes, for greater productivity.

Automation challenges solved:

  • Improved ergonomics on complex assembly work
  • Assignment of operators to tasks with greater value
  • Guaranteed quality and repeatability on assemblies

Key value drivers:

  • Accuracy
  • Precision
  • Ergonomics
  • Flexibility

Tasks solved by collaborative robots

  • Assembly, palletization and visual inspection

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