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Bin Picking Automation in electroplating at the highest level

  • Continental AG and HAHN Robotics are further developing bin picking automation.
  • Robots with 3D vision systems scan, grab and hang parts automatically on an electroplating rack.
  • Employees are enabled to focus on higher-quality tasks.

The Continental AG in Rheinböllen

Continental AG develops intelligent technologies for the mobility of people and their goods. As a reliable partner, Continental offers international automobile manufacturers and industrial partners sustainable, safe, convenient, individual and affordable solutions. The group is divided into the Rubber Group and Automotive Group. The ContiTech and Tire divisions are part of the Rubber Group.

The Automotive Group consists of the three divisions Interior, Vitesco Technologies and Chassis & Safety. The Chassis & Safety division develops and produces integrated active and passive vehicle safety technologies as well as products that support driving dynamics. Continental Chassis & Safety is one of the global market leaders in the hydraulic brake systems business. One of the production sites is in Rheinböllen.

The challenge

Automation faces new challenges. This includes workplace and data security, the networking of systems, as well as the further integration of robots in processes and procedures. HAHN Robotics integrates innovative automation solutions. In the first bin picking application, which was developed together with Continental AG two years ago, the greatest challenge lay in image recognition and networking with the robot software. In the context of automation, the robot used must be able to recognize and grasp individual parts in a box. Based on this information, the robot records in which position the objects are and from which direction they can be optimally picked up with the gripper.

In the continuation of bin picking automation by the team of experts from HAHN Robotics and the experience of the Continental employees, the robot now hangs the removed parts on a galvanizing rack. Recognizing the brackets on the frame presented a particular challenge: Due to the weight of the workpieces and the associated production operation, the hooks of the galvanizing frame are stressed and deform over time. The robot must be able to deal with these changes and recognize the hooks as such even after deformation so that the galvanized products can be hung on them. This is realized by a special torque sensor in the robot's gripper.

As part of the second bin picking project, HAHN Robotics revised the interfaces between the robot software and its camera sensors. The interfaces were adjusted with the help of software from Keyence and KUKA, which covers all the features required for the project and is to be implemented by the team of experts from both companies.

Project progress

The corporate structure of the HAHN Group with its 15 corporate brands in four divisions enables and promotes synergies between the companies. In the case of this bin picking automation, HAHN Robotics and HAHN Automation benefit from the cooperation at the same location in Rheinböllen with synergies through the flexible use of programmers, designers and technical experts in joint projects.

The iteration of bin picking automation with the suspension of parts on electroplated racks is based on a project that Continental AG started together with HAHN Automation more than four years ago and has now been running successfully in production for two years. As a first step, the production-ready bin picking system was integrated into an existing production line, which was planned and built by HAHN Automation. As a result of the joint development, the fully automatic feeding of asymmetrical and geometrically complex cast iron parts through the automation solution allows an efficient and continuous material flow.

The close proximity to the location of HAHN Robotics, HAHN Automation and Continental AG in Rheinböllen allows quick agreements and uncomplicated project coordination. This resulted in a valued and long-term customer relationship between Continental AG and the HAHN Group, which is now based on a deep mutual project experience. The vast experience of the experts and the project team on the part of Continental AG is extremely important here in order to be able to optimally implement the solution approaches.

Advantages for the customer

With the extended level of bin picking automation, a higher degree of automation is achieved in the production of the Continental AG. This primarily relieves employees who previously hung the parts manually on the electroplating racks. The employees can thus take on other, higher-quality tasks.

The existing relationships between the Continental AG, HAHN Robotics and HAHN Automation will be further deepened with the implementation of the second bin picking project. This also increases the experience gained by both companies with regard to the development and implementation of highly complex automation solutions.

Outlook

The extended bin picking automation is currently in the pilot phase and is currently running in a test system for further optimization. The test system is currently being duplicated and put into operation in Q3 / 2020 at Continental AG at the Rheinböllen location. Furthermore, the automation of the next production steps is already being worked on: The galvanized parts are to be removed from the frame with the help of robot technology and subjected to a subsequent quality control. This final quality control is carried out with the help of EVE Vision, the automated end-of-line tester from HAHN Digital. On the basis of artificial intelligence and machine vision algorithms, the EVE Vision system achieves a very high level of error detection for every single checked product.