Robotics & Mechatronics


Robotic seal installation: Fieldbus Box system for robot head application

Third Quarter 2007 Robotics & Mechatronics

Decentralised automation technology and Fieldbus Box systems from Beckhoff are becoming more and more popular: in a front-line application at the BMW plant in Dingolfing, Germany, Fieldbus Box modules offer a ‘fine’ robot hand for installing rubber seals for glass sliding vent roofs.

Compact Fieldbus Box modules in protection class IP67 from Beckhoff are robust and watertight and can be mounted directly at the machine with no control cabinet or terminal box required. Due to their small weights and dimensions, they are particularly suitable for applications where space is tight, or for applications featuring moving I/O interfaces such as robot arms.

The IP67 modules were installed at the head of a Kuka robot that inserts the rubber seal for the electric glass sliding vent roofs in the BMW 5 series. In the past, this operation had to be carried out manually, but now a robot is able to meet the high quality standards. The rubber seal is installed with high precision and constant pressure, providing a precise and reliable seal for the glass sliding vent roof that also minimises wind noise.

The Fieldbus Box modules are mounted on a Kuka robot that inserts the rubber seal for the electric glass sliding vent roof in the BMW 5 series
The Fieldbus Box modules are mounted on a Kuka robot that inserts the rubber seal for the electric glass sliding vent roof in the BMW 5 series

What may sound simple often requires immense production planning and implementation. As a result of their successful efforts, BMW engineers are very proud of their patented technique. It is the first assembly step after the body has been painted: first, the roof cut-out is dried with an infrared lamp and heated to 22°C - the optimum temperature for processing the seal. The robot arm then travels into the roof cut-out and installs the rubber seal.

The Coupler Box and five Extension Box modules are crucial components. The CouplerBox gathers the I/O data from the extension modules via the interference-free IP-Link optical fibre connection. The modules are digital 24 V input and output devices for coupling of light barriers and sensors for colour recognition. The light barriers monitor the uniformity of the tension over the complete length of the rubber seal during the installation. The higher-level controller processes the associated signals via the Fieldbus Box modules and Profibus.

The Coupler Box with Profibus interface gathers the I/O data from the extension box modules  via the interference-free IP-Link optical fibre connection
The Coupler Box with Profibus interface gathers the I/O data from the extension box modules via the interference-free IP-Link optical fibre connection

The colour sensors are used for quality assurance purposes. Among other functions, they are used to detect when sealing material from a new roll is used. In order to minimise differences in material and eliminate loss in quality, the seal for each vehicle must originate from the same batch or roll.

The complete robot system was built and supplied by the company Symax Systemtechnik Sondermaschinenbau based in Germany. Because the Beckhoff modules come in protection class IP67, no additional housing was required. Due to their compact design (only half the width of alternative products), the modules could be fitted into the limited space available. The simple, flexible and cost-effective expansion option via IP-Link provides further benefits.

For more information contact Conrad Muller, Beckhoff Automation, +27 (0)11 792 3374, info@beckhoff.co.za, www.beckhoff.co.za



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