Ultra-flexible robotic manufacturing at a Changan-Ford plant in China

China has grown into one of the largest markets for industrial robotics. This example at a Changan-Ford factory highlights why.

Over the last decade the world has changed dramatically—especially when it comes to robotics. While thoroughly industrialized countries like the U.S. and Japan have a large amount of robots, even rapidly industrializing countries like Brazil and China are adopting robots in great numbers. This isn’t solely because operating a robot is less expensive than employing a human—especially when that’s not actually true in the lower cost countries. Issues like quality, throughput, waste and taking humans out of harm’s way increasingly play a role even in developing economies. In fact, it is likely that China will soon become the largest market for robotics in the world.

Case in point: at the Changan-Ford factory in Chongqing China, the company is using ABB robots on a new vehicle line meant to provide the ultimate in flexibility. Using what ABB calls its FlexLean philosophy, this car body assembly line is equipped with several key robotic technologies to allow for rapid switching between car models based on market demands.


Overview: ride the line

The assembly of auto car bodies (AKA Body in White) is a complicated task employing a range of high tech processes. In this first movie we’ve brought that process to life by enabling you to “ride the line” and witness first hand the range of technologies used. Starting from the transfer of the underbody, you’ll see Gluing, Framing, Spot Welding, Assembly, Materials Handling, Vision Guidance, Laser Brazing, Laser Cutting, Laser Welding, and Polishing. Enjoy the ride.


In detail: GateFramer ultra-flexible robotic car framing system

As the heart of the Chongqing body in white line, the GateFramer anchors the flexibility of the entire system. Where once it was common to build one car on one line, manufacturers are now moving to a flexible production concept where multiple cars can be produced on the same line. The new GateFramer robotic car body framing system builds on ABB’s nearly 20 years of framing experience by providing the industry with the flexible, accurate, expandable and fast solution that today’s car manufacturers demand.


In detail: hemming metal on the line

ABB’s Roller Hemming replaces traditional dedicated tabletop hemming machines with a robotic solution for finishing automotive closures.


In detail: moving the car body from station to station

Using traditional conveyors and location devices limits the flexibility of automotive body assembly. Using ABB’s FlexLean modular automation—featuring FlexTrack, FlexLifter and Flex PLP—allows flexibility to be built in from the start.

Categories and Tags
About the author

Sidney Chen

I am the Marketing Communications Manager of ABB Robotics in China. I joined ABB in 2004, working for local Division Marketing Communications function for Automation Technology Division, Automation Products Division, Discrete Automation and Process Automation Division successively before joining Robotics in 2012.
Comment on this article