Big changes can come in small (robotic) packages

A robotics specialist in the United States proves that sometimes it's the small, seemingly insignificant developments that create the biggest changes.

As humans we tend to think of major developments as being large, newsworthy items. Even within ABB it’s the world-changing concepts such as renewable energy and smart grids that we expect to drive the most advances in our push towards the world of the future. Yet while these big concepts can certainly result in big changes, history is strewn with lesser known advances that have left oversized marks.

Take tire and wheel assembly, for instance. There aren’t a lot of game-changing advances you can point to that have completely altered the paradigm for how wheels get fastened to cars and trucks at the factory. But with ABB robots and a new material from 3M, Esys Automation is revolutionizing the important-but-often-ignored world of wheel balancing.

At a modern auto assembly factory the traditionally painstaking task of balancing wheels is a hardscrabble method of pounding clip-on weights onto the flange of the wheel by hand. It is also a procedure that, until now, had largely escaped the benefits of automation and represents one of the last strongholds of assembly bottlenecks. But using a combination of ABB robots such as the IRB 140 and a new polymer composite  heavyweight adhesive tape from 3M, the engineers at Esys were able to develop the AutoW8t system of automatic wheel balancing which essentially eliminates all traces of the traditional bottleneck.

In an industry that jumps when it hears improvements on the order of 1 to 3 percent, the ability to reduce cycle times by more than 65 percent is an amazing leap forward. In fact, the incredible accomplishment earned both 3M and Esys one of the automotive industry’s most prestigious honors: a 2012 PACE Award. In addition to the clear improvement in productivity, the new system has a whole host of additional side benefits such as being better for the environment, improving worker safety, and improving the performance of our cars.

“AutoW8t is a dramatic change to the paradigm of tire and wheel assembly,” says Chris Marcus, CEO of Esys. “Now that a few major manufacturers have implemented it, what we’ve found is that all of them are moving quickly to do trials and tests and get the equipment in their plants. I see our AutoW8t system as the way all wheel balancing will ultimately be done by every manufacturer if they want to remain competitive.”

Benefits of AutoW8t robotic wheel balancing system

  • Better for the environment: lead-free, corrosion-free, reduced waste, recyclable
  • Improved worker safety: no risk from repetitive hammering or deflection injuries
  • Increased speed: complete elimination of traditional wheel assembly bottleneck
  • Reduced cost: smaller footprint, elimination of duplicated stations, smaller inventory, reduced waste
  • Increased performance: incredible ride quality, sleeker look

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About the author

Maria Eriksson

I am the Segments & Events Communications Manager at ABB Robotics. My main task is to deliver best in class international events, both internal and external, and focus segment marketing communications programs. I have a great deal of experience in B2B marketing and communications and have worked with most areas, including management positions, and have therefor achieved a deep understanding of the context in sales and marketing as well as leading teams. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business and Administration from Sweden’s Uppsala University and have a background in engineering. In my spare time I am an avid horseback-rider and supporting my sons who play competitive ice-hockey.
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