KUKA Systems North America, part of Germany based KUKA AG, is an international supplier of engineering services and flexible automation systems for the Automotive, Aerospace, Energy and Industrial Solutions segments.
In the Automotive industry, KUKA’s portfolio includes the entire manufacturing automation spectrum for joining and assembling vehicle bodies.
From production facilities with low levels of automation to highly flexible manufacturing systems, from the manufacture of individual subassemblies to the assembly of complete bodyshells and add-on parts, KUKA prides itself on being masters of automated and semi-automated car body production.
The lead engineers at KUKA evaluated the standard automation systems used in auto manufacturing facilities, most of which are 25 years old and haven’t seen major improvements in over 15 years, and saw an opportunity to create a system that would significantly improve the way cars are built. KUKA was looking for an alternative to the industry standard that would be flexible, efficient and cost effective.
KUKA’s answer to the standard automotive car body assembly lines was the PULSE carrier conveyor system. Both efficient and cost effective, the PULSE system moves body sections through robotic work stations along assembly lines as joining and other functions are performed.
While designing the PULSE system, KUKA explored a number of different conveyance options. Some of the solutions were traditional, friction based, drive trains which had some advantages over the current industry standards but were merely incremental improvements to existing technology.
KUKA wanted to develop a system that would bring significant change to auto manufacturing and significant benefits over legacy systems. The engineers at KUKA wanted to create a true game changing technology.
When Kevin Laurence, director of KUKA’s PULSE division, discovered MagneMotion’s QuickStick HT Independent Cart Technology he commented, “For the first time, I found a product that we could use as building blocks. All other products we looked at didn’t have the necessary power or were one off designs that were too expensive and not flexible enough.”
These alternative products were not viable options for the automotive industry where projects need to be completed in less than a year. QuickStick HT’s inherent ease of use and flexibility allowed KUKA to simply configure a solution to fit their needs and timeframe.
As the PULSE design evolved, the benefits of QuickStick became more apparent. KUKA chose to add more motors to the original design, increasing the available thrust of the system.
The higher speed increased the efficiency of other process equipment, such as robots, resulting in the need for fewer process stations. QuickStick’s flexibility allowed KUKA to create a truly cost effective system.
“QuickStick has allowed KUKA to present a revolutionary, complete solution to our customers that improves all measured criteria”, stated Laurence. “It’s twice as fast, has 1/10 the parts, zero external locating devices, uses less power, has greater MTBF yet significantly lowers MTTR all while being more flexible. These are the main things our customers measure us on, and we hit home runs on every count.”
QuickStick intelligent conveyance allowed KUKA to give the automotive industry the ground breaking, turnkey solution they were striving for.
KUKA’s first PULSE system was installed in May, 2015. This customer has seen a 99% improvement in system performance compared to the incumbent electrified monorail system they were using in their facility.
Production rates have increased and the system has not been the cause of any lost production time since it was installed.
In February, 2016, KUKA was awarded a prestigious contract with Jaguar Land Rover to install PULSE into its new facility in Europe.
When asked about his vision for the future, Laurence stated, “I believe the KUKA PULSE, utilizing MagneMotion’s QuickStick technology, will eventually run all automotive body shops.
The benefits PULSE offers over traditional equipment are staggering. In my opinion, there hasn’t been a bigger breakthrough in automotive manufacturing since the acceptance of robots on the manufacturing floor.”