Canadian Manufacturing

ABB Robotics nabs Ford manufacturing excellence award

After years of development, ABB's Flexible Cylinder Head Assembly system is set to be installed in Ford's Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ont.

ABB says the first FCHA unit is being launched at Ford's Cleveland engine plant, with additional systems soon bound for three additional plants, including Essex, Ont.,

ABB says the first FCHA unit is being launched at Ford’s Cleveland engine plant, with additional systems soon bound for three additional plants, including Essex, Ont. PHOTO: ABB Robotics

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—ABB Robotics has received the Global Powertrain Manufacturing Excellence award from the Ford Motor Co. at the Ford Powertrain Manufacturing global supplier summit in Dearborn, Mich.

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

The FCHA was a 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 Ford initiated to develop a more flexible and cost-effective system to assemble cylinder heads at its engine manufacturing facilities. Following a second development phase and a subsequent review in 2010, Ford selected ABB as a sole development partner for this technology.

The ABB Research and Development (R&D) team at the Auburn Hills, Mich., facility collaborated with Ford’s Powertrain Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (AME) group to refine the technology. In 2014, 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 assembles multiple cylinder head architectures simultaneously, without changeovers. The modular platform, which is based on parallel processing, reduces the use of dedicated stations while maintaining redundancy for critical operations, and is easily adjusted to meet varying production volumes.

“Collaborating with Ford on this project has been very rewarding. Nobody else has this technology,” said Isaac Zolotarev, R&D manager at 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 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;
• Integrated quality checks throughout the assembly process.

Ford has designated the system as an internal Bill of Process (BOP), establishing it as the new design standard for all cylinder head assembly lines installed at Ford engine manufacturing systems.

ABB and Ford have filed at the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office and other patent offices a joint patent application for the FCHA system.

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