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ABB Robotics wins Ford manufacturing excellence award

ABB’s award-winning system will soon be installed at Ford’s assembly plant in Essex, Ont.


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December 16, 2015 by Canadian Plastics

Automation systems supplier ABB Robotics has won the Global Powertrain Manufacturing Excellence award from the Ford Motor Company.

The award recognized ABB’s Flexible Cylinder Head Assembly (FCHA) system for bringing what Ford called “superior technical innovation and global supply solutions” to improve investment efficiency at the auto maker.

The award was presented at the Ford Powertrain Manufacturing global supplier summit in Dearborn, Mich., on October 28.

The FCHA system is the result of the joint development effort between Ford Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering and ABB Robotics Powertrain Robot Systems. ABB began developing the FCHA technology in 2008 for a formal design competition that Ford Motor Company initiated to develop a more flexible and cost effective system to assemble cylinder heads at its engine manufacturing facilities. After reviewing designs from six participating manufacturers, Ford selected two to work with further. Following a second development phase and a subsequent review in 2010, Ford selected ABB as a sole development partner for this technology.

ABB’s Flexible Cylinder Head Assembly (FCHA) system.

ABB’s Flexible Cylinder Head Assembly (FCHA) system.

For the last five years the ABB Research and Development (R&D) team at the Auburn Hills, Mich. facility has collaborated with the Ford Powertrain Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (AME) group to refine the technology. In 2014, when the development had progressed to the stage where it satisfactorily addressed the necessary challenges, ABB won a competitive bid to deliver four complete FCHA systems. The first is currently being launched at the Ford Cleveland engine plant, with additional systems soon bound for Lima, Ohio; Essex, Ont.; and Chihuahua, Mexico.

The ABB FCHA design improves upon traditional serial assembly systems by allowing multiple cylinder head architectures to be assembled simultaneously, without the need for time consuming and production halting changeovers. The innovative technology provides a modular and flexible platform based on parallel processing, minimizing, and in many instances eliminating, the use of dedicated stations. This incorporates redundancy for critical operations, and allows production volumes to be easily adjusted as required.

“Collaborating with Ford on this project has been very rewarding. Nobody else has this technology,” said Isaac Zolotarev, R&D manager, ABB Robotics. “With a very competitive initial investment, we can provide a system that reduces tooling costs and the time required to launch new architectures, while improving product quality and reducing the system footprint. It is a very significant accomplishment in cost effective flexibility and performance.”

A complete FCHA system features 15 ABB robots, comprised of four different medium and high payload 6-axis models. Certain modules within the system can be integrated into existing, traditional cylinder head assembly stations, such as installation of plugs, sealer dispensing, valvetrain assembly and test.

Additional FCHA system features include force and distance monitoring for valve assembly and key up processes prevents damage of delicate components; integrated key up checks at point of assembly; loctite/sealer dispensing with a single nozzle for any size holes; and integrated quality checks throughout the assembly process.