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Flexible Robot cell for force-controlled assembly of gearboxes

PRIMUS PRÄZISIONSTECHNIK

Software as key to success

THE CHALLENGE

System supplier for efficient drive solutions

Primus Präzisionstechnik employs 110 people who develop and manufacture special gear units with power ratings of up to 100 watts for customers in the automotive sector, building automation and medical technology.

With the aim of maintaining a high level of repeatability and process stability, even for large volumes, the company is automating and digitizing as many processes as possible.
This is the case with a force-controlled pick-and-place and joining process in which small gearboxes are produced from several individual parts for a customer in the automotive industry: The task here is to fit three shafts and five gears into a gearbox housing. Before placement, the individual parts are also greased. Approximately 250,000 of these gearboxes are manufactured by Primus each year – until now manually.

THE APPLICATION

Force-controlled joining process

“This is a complex application with many process steps and different components that need to be assembled into a gear motor, which is later sealed airtight,” Managing Director Thorsten Völz tells us. “It is therefore vital that all components are assembled completely and correctly. And this is where, unfortunately, people are sometimes the weakest link.” To improve product quality and process stability and reduce costs through better dosing of the grease, Primus decided to automate this production step robotically.

“Our concern with automation was not about optimizing cycle times, but about increasing process accuracy and achieving stable repeatability. Since we wanted to remain flexible in terms of implementation and hardware selection, we decided to start on a greenfield site and tackle our first robotic cell in-house, although we still lacked previous experience in robotics,” Völz sums up.

WHY ARTIMINDS?

“ArtiMinds’ software solution was a major building block in realizing our requirements. In a classically programmed environment, we would have needed significantly more test cycles and a significantly longer development period.”

THORSTEN VÖLZ
Managing Director at Primus Präzisionstechnik

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THE SOLUTION

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ArtiMinds-Robotics-Entgrat-Anwendung
ArtiMinds-Robotics-Entgrat-Anwendung

The software solution from ArtiMinds is the key

Using sensor technology, the team taught the robot to see and feel and equipped the cell with a camera and a force-torque sensor. An individual gripper system was added to handle the gears and shafts. The key to the smooth interaction of all parts was the manufacturer-independent software solution ArtiMinds Robot Programming Suite (RPS). “We were looking for a programming environment so that we wouldn’t have to touch the source code directly,” says Völz. “In the process, the RPS acted as an interface that couples all the peripherals together.”

Technical Manager Sascha Schwier explains: “For the process to run robustly, the system must be able to compensate for tolerances independently. The only way to achieve this is through intelligent communication between the components. We have practically built our special machine, yet we can still use it flexibly thanks to the algorithms of ArtiMinds RPS.”

.” Primus was particularly impressed by the clear and intuitive programming with the software. “ArtiMinds RPS offers many helpful functions that make work easier, such as the 3D simulation environment or the ability to switch back and forth between online and offline mode depending on requirements,” lists Michael Castien, Robot Programmer at Primus Präzisionstechnik. “The very big advantage is that I can use a single platform to harmoniously integrate and control all components and sensors such as robots, cameras, force-torque sensors, grippers and motors in the process. The RPS simplifies this step and provides a uniform programming structure.”

Analysis, optimization and remote maintenance with ArtiMinds LAR

To keep an eye on the plant during operation, Primus uses ArtiMinds Learning & Analytics for Robots (LAR) analysis software. On one hand, Primus uses this tool for process monitoring and fault detection or analysis, on the other hand also to convert process stability into key figures. “ArtiMinds LAR enables us to take a targeted approach to process optimization and troubleshooting,” says Schwier. “This eliminates the need for fishing in the dark.” Castien also sees this as a major advantage: “There is always a kind of demonstration effect when troubleshooting. Once you are standing in front of the system, the error no longer occurs. With LAR, I can automatically record all the data and, thanks to the seamless documentation, isolate errors within a short time.” In addition, optimization potential that would not be visible to the naked eye can be easily objectified. Castien explains, “We have two robots with the same program. The analysis data from the LAR showed that there are still differences, though, and contrary to our assumption, the two systems don’t run the same.” Using this data, Castien was able to readjust the precision to within 100ths and, after a few runs, re-evaluate whether or not the changes had the desired positive effect.

Success all along the line

With the software solutions from ArtiMinds, Primus Präzisionstechnik was in a position to implement that flexible robotic cell that the company needed for the fully automated assembly of the small gearboxes. “We achieved our goal and were able to increase the process quality from about 90 to almost 100 per cent,” Völz states with satisfaction. “Furthermore, the system gives us high flexibility since we can adapt it to new tasks or changed conditions without much effort, i.e. reprogram it independently. In addition, the robotics know-how built up as part of the project provides us with a major competitive advantage!”

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„Thanks to the cooperation with ArtiMinds at an equal level, we have worked out solutions and ways for every challenge in partnership. And we still have intensive exchanges, for example, to extend the preparation of LAR’s analysis data to our needs, as we are currently doing.”

Michael Castien, Robot Programmer at Primus Präzisionstechnik

Take Aways of the force-controlled joining process:

  • ArtiMinds RPS offers many helpful functions that make work easier, such as the 3D simulation environment or the ability to switch back and forth between online and offline mode depending on requirements.
  • ArtiMinds RPS acts as an interface to harmoniously integrate and control all components and sensors such as robots, camera, force-torque sensor, gripper and motors into the process with a single platform, while providing a uniform programming structure.
  • Predefined function blocks for force-controlled searching and joining reduce programming effort.
  • Targeted process optimization and troubleshooting based on automatically collected sensor data using ArtiMinds LAR.
  • Thanks to ArtiMinds’ software solutions, Primus was able to implement an individual flexible robot cell for the fully automated assembly of the small gearboxes, even without robotics experience, and to gain a competitive advantage with the robotics know-how thus built up.
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ArtiMinds-Robotics-Entgrat-Anwendung
ArtiMinds-Robotics-Entgrat-Anwendung

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