Automation

Robots Manufacture Products for Electric Mobility

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Druckguss Westfalen relies on Kuka for the automation of 15 die casting systems as well as for the loading and unloading of six CNC machines. With these new processes the foundry is laying the foundation for production in the sense of Industry 4.0 and increased efficiency.

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The Kuka Foundry robots feature heat, corrosion, alkali and acid resistant paintwork.
The Kuka Foundry robots feature heat, corrosion, alkali and acid resistant paintwork.
( Source: Kuka )

Since 1964, Druckguss Westfalen has been manufacturing high-quality components for a wide variety of industries: from the automotive sector to the electronics industry to the consumer sector. The company has been relying on the automation specialist Kuka for 30 years. The automation experts from Augsburg also contribute their know-how to the manufacture of new products in the field of electromobility. The company supplies the automation solutions for 15 die casting systems as well as for the automated loading and unloading of six CNC machines.

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“The precision of the components is crucial in e-mobility," says Rolf Cramer, Managing Director of Druckguss Westfalen. "With Kuka's automation solutions, we can achieve the efficiency and quality we need."

Digitalization, globalization, lack of skilled workers: These are trends that make themselves felt in industrial halls and production processes. The change is also noticeable in Geseke at the Druckguss Westfalen foundry. The main drivers in the company are growth in the field of electromobility and the increasing demand for components with the highest precision that are required in this sector. At the same time, processes must become more and more efficient. "We took a look at the market," Cramer says. “Kuka had the most convincing and competitive solution."

15 Die Casting Cells Complement Existing Systems

This solution consists of 15 die-casting cells with Kuka Automation, which complement Kuka's existing systems. Kuka jointed-arm robots of the KR 16 to KR 120 type take over the arduous work in the demanding foundry environment, with a lot of noise and dirt that used to be done manually. They remove the components and relieve the employees of arduous tasks. The Kuka Foundry robots feature heat, corrosion, alkali and acid resistant paintwork.

"They are therefore ideally suited for the tough environment of a foundry," says Steffen Günther, Head of Business Development CAS/Foundry at Kuka. The individual systems include one to two robots, presses, immersion cooling basins, test stations and marking stations for the products. The Kuka KR C4 and KRC Robotstar software are used for the control of the robots and the machines. They are characterized by their intuitive handling and open communication standards. In addition, data can be captured, structured and tracked by the controls.

Thanks to the high-quality casting cells offered by Kuka Automation, the company achieves stable process quality and consistently high precision and component quality. “Accuracy is decisive for safety-relevant products such as electric cars," says Steffen Druselmann, Production Manager at Druckguss Westfalen. “Due to the standardization of the cells, the error rate is significantly reduced and rejects can be avoided." For the monotonous process of loading and unloading CNC machines, Kuka implements automation solutions.

Basis for Production 4.0

With the new plants and processes, Druckguss Westfalen is laying the foundation for production in the sense of Industry 4.0 and increased efficiency. If you have all the data available at a glance, you can optimize your processes, detect errors more quickly and eliminate them. Production becomes more transparent, thus more efficient and the company more profitable.

This is exactly what happens at the specialist for aluminum die casting. If the components are marked with a QR code, which is scanned in the following processes, traceability can be realized. This code can be stored with information that can be retrieved at any time. This makes it possible to document the complete life cycle of a product from manufacture to the customer. “The QR code makes our components smart," says Franz Baier, also Managing Director at Druckguss Westfalen. “This brings numerous advantages." In future, Druckguss Westfalen will be able to reduce quality costs, better coordinate inventories and optimize the maintenance of the individual system components through flawless documentation.

Flexibility and Product Portfolio Help in Making the Right Decision

With the current project, which will be completed in 2020, Druckguss Westfalen is continuing its long-standing cooperation with Kuka. Kuka, formerly Reis Robotics, has been supplying the aluminum specialist with state-of-the-art equipment for 30 years. Various die-casting automation solutions have already been supplied. "We appreciate the flexibility that Kuka offers us and the broad product portfolio that allows individual solutions to be implemented," says Managing Director Baier. Another advantage for the company: Kuka offers everything in the field of automation from a single source - from system concepts to employee training and maintenance. In close cooperation and with the support of Kuka, Druckguss Westfalen has developed over the years into an innovative supplier with a future-oriented, automated production.

Traceability of the Components

Through the 15 new, automated die casting cells, the automation of six CNC machines including software and the coding of the components with the respective QR codes, Druckguss Westfalen is enhancing its processes, making them more efficient and increasingly producing in accordance with industry 4.0. Thanks to the traceability of the components and the automated cells, all component data can be traced at any time by Druckguss Westfalen.

This allows the further optimization of the processes. Especially with regard to new products for electromobility, the aluminum specialist benefits from the accuracy and precision of the robots. The particular challenge for Kuka was or is the standardization of the die casting cells taking into account the different machine sizes. The systems are delivered in three tranches. The first plant went into operation in January 2019. The entire process will be successively automated.

Everything is to be delivered and installed by the middle of 2020. “Of course, it takes some time to adapt our processes," says Cramer from Druckguss Westfalen. "But with Kuka at our side, we're confident that the transition will work."

This article was first published by MM Maschinenmarkt.

Original by Victoria Sonnenberg / Translation by Alexander Stark

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