thyssenkrupp Bilstein is a manufacturer of high-tech suspension solutions for the automotive industry. The company achieved new business growth by deploying nine UR10 cobots at its facility in Hamilton, Ohio, USA. Universal Robots can automate difficult tasks such as machine tool management, assembly and product inspection, optimizing production and providing a better working environment. This allows thyssenkrupp Bilstein to further expand its business without the hassle of hiring additional workers in an environment of labor shortages. thyssenkrupp Bilstein plans to add 40 more Universal Robots in the future.
Human-robot collaboration tackles labor shortages
thyssenkrupp Bilstein faced increasing customer demand and rapidly changing product requirements. On the one hand, the company needs to maintain a lean and flexible manufacturing process; on the other hand, it needs to increase the growth rate. Merely hiring more employees doesn’t meet expectations. At the same time, the manufacturer has also made a commitment to existing employees: it will significantly reduce unergonomic tasks.
Aldo Albieri, Operations Manager at thyssenkrupp Bilstein, was the first to see the potential of Universal Robots. On his visits to small family-owned machine factories, he saw that even manufacturers with little experience with robots could use cobots to accomplish complex tasks.
Aldo Albieri said: “They didn’t need a safety fence, and the cobots had wheels under them and could move freely. That’s when it dawned on me.”
Since then, he has been checking the use of Universal Robots at the thyssenkrupp Bilstein Hamilton factory every other month for nearly two years.
When describing the adoption of Universal Robots cobot arms in a factory in Ohio, Aldo Albieri doesn’t hesitate to call it “transformation.”
According to Aldo Albieri: “From the initial commissioning to the supplier’s machine integration, the process was very fast.”
Aldo Albieri quickly realized that insiders had to be able to operate cobots. thyssenkrupp Bilstein’s in-house Industry 4.0 team, responsible for collaborative robotics applications, surveyed different brands.
He noted, “We decided to have only one cobot, and after a number of considerations, we chose to partner with Universal Robots. We found that Universal Robots had the most advanced solutions for more precise pick and place. Ao cobots are very easy to maintain and program, and have the best speed and repeatability.”
“Presidential”-level collaborative robot lineup to help complete assembly tasks
The Industry 4.0 team within thyssenkrupp Bilstein has now deployed nine UR10 cobots. The UR10 cobot has a working radius of 51.2 inches (1300 mm) and a payload of 22 lbs (10 kg). In addition, the tenth UR10 will be used for application test models in the future.
Aldo Albieri said: “We plan to install 40 more Universal Robots. And the company will have an interesting way of naming our cobots ‘new colleagues’. We need a name that can name 45 to 50 cobots in a row. Finally we decided to name it after the President of the United States. Now our cobots have been deployed from George Washington to the 10th John Tyler.”
The collaboration between our fifth cobot, James Monroe, and our sixth, John Quincy Adams, is one of the most striking applications at the Hamilton plant. The two cobots will work together to assemble the thyssenkrupp Bilstein Active Damping System (ADS). In this multi-step cycle, James Monroe first picks up an inner tube and sends it to the punch before placing it on the transfer jig; after that, John Quincy Adams picks it up and loads it into the “Fitting Station” ; in the “Mixing Station”, the cobot grabs an outer tube, assembles them together, and places it on the exit chute.
100% comprehensive inspection, 10-14 months ROI
Quality inspection is another task of automation. A total of four cobots at thyssenkrupp Bilstein complete instrument inspection, post-fill crimp inspection and final part assembly inspection.
Doug Mcle, Manufacturing Engineer at thyssenkrupp Bilstein, said: “Before, we would check two parts every hour or two to make sure we were still where we should be. But now we have a 100% full check. Collaboration deployed in the final assembly part The robot has a Cognex camera that moves quickly between inspection points to ensure that all components are in the correct position and that the labels are correct and valid. Every part is inspected, and if a defective part is found, the cobot simply rejects it Components.”
Since thyssenkrupp Bilstein started bringing Universal Robots in-house, the ROI has improved significantly.
Aldo Albieri said: “We have both projects with a long payback period and projects with a short payback period. We think a payback period of 10 to 14 months is the most suitable. Compared to traditional industrial robots, cobots definitely have more advantages. Short payback period.”
Freeing up labor for other tasks can help achieve a faster return on investment.
Aldo Albieri explained: “Universal Robots not only give us more opportunities to grow and create more jobs, but also help divert our most valuable human resources to new projects that require the most expertise. If we rely solely on Hiring new employees, we will never be able to triple our original size. Cobots have opened up a new avenue of growth for us, allowing us to retain existing employees. No worker will lose his job.”
Easy programming, adding new applications with UR+
The engineering team developing the cobot application had no previous experience with robotics.
Doug Mcle said: “We started with a simple pick and place task and learned it bit by bit. The next step was to figure out the cobot interface, which was a little bit difficult. But once we got past that, we could used in plant-wide applications.”
Jordan Osterholt, Process Engineer at thyssenkrupp Bilstein, explains how to use the free Universal Robots Academy training modules on the Universal Robots website during the development phase, saying: “I would first learn how to program a cobot, then I would apply what I learned and deploy the application directly with a test robot. .
The demo robot has wheels under it, making it easy to carry out testing tasks.
Doug Mcle said: “We can plug the cobot into a regular 110V socket and start testing right away. If it was a traditional industrial robot, we would have to drill a hole and attach it to the floor. The cobot saves us a lot of time. “
In addition to deploying test robots to develop new applications, thyssenkrupp Bilstein also uses RoboDK software certified by the UR+ platform for plug-and-play functionality of Universal Robots.
Doug Mcle further explained: “Software simulations help us see if the cycle times are accurate enough to prototype and configure. We just put our efforts on the computer screen, and when we deliver, the cobot is almost ready. “
The Industry 4.0 team is working on installing two UR10 cobots upside-down on a UR+ certified Vention 7th-axis travel extender; and plans to introduce new cobots to the shop every other month.
Aldo Albieri concludes: “There are so many potential applications waiting to be discovered. The opportunities are limitless.”
The UR+ platform provides users with tools such as end effectors and accessories, vision cameras and software. All products are tested and certified for integration with Universal Robots, ensuring simple installation, reliable operation, smooth user experience, and easy programming. Offers the advantage of fast, smooth, and low-risk integration.
UR+ products by thyssenkrupp Bilstein:
RoboDK simulation and offline programming software
ATI QC11 Automatic Tool Changer
Vention 7th Axis Travel Extender