Hirata Helps Meet Growing Electric Vehicle Battery Demand with Industry’s First Mass Production Line

OEM Launches First-of-a-kind Machine

Challenge

  • Create an industry-first machine to manufacture electrical vehicle batteries – supporting the electric vehicle’s first mass production line

Solutions

Results

  • Hirata can use a standard cell to create a customized machine
  • Standardization improves quality and efficiency
  • Seamless data sharing supports remote diagnostics and real-time maintenance, and reduces travel time and expense
  • Add-On Instructions reduce programming hours 30%
  • Machine footprint reduced 30%

OEM Relies on Rockwell Automation to Launch First-of-a-kind Machine

Hirata is a well-known and respected provider of production equipment and engineering services to manufacturers in the automotive industry. Known for providing custom production systems for customers, Hirata manages projects so the end result optimizes quality, cost and delivery.

To support custom production systems, Hirata’s engineers are knowledgeable in every phase of manufacturing and deliver complete and integrated manufacturing capabilities – from design to assembly, testing and implementation. Relying on the latest manufacturing advances to improve systems, Hirata uses its large assembly commissioning spaces and clean rooms to simulate large-scale production systems and create flexible processes that help its end users address changing market demands in different regions.

Hirata’s end-users are accustomed to exceptional engineering capabilities that result in high-quality, productive systems.

To meet these expectations, Hirata uses a unique design methodology, the Assembly Cell System (ACS). ACS is an assembly line system that creates reliable production systems more quickly, at a lower cost and with better performance than traditional systems. ACS has highly standardized modules, and by analyzing the operation and function of each unit, machine and component, can accelerate production start-up.

Challenge

The custom electric vehicle battery production machines Hirata develops for customers must be smaller than traditional machines – as much as 30% smaller than the usual machine footprint required by this scale of production. To achieve the tight delivery and reduce the foot print, Hirata wanted to use a single vendor for the entire solution – a partner capable of providing local support to speed commissioning.

Because the electric vehicle market is emerging, companies are competing to implement mass production as quickly as possible. Usually, Hirata will design, manufacture and then test a machine – in that order. However, this project had extremely tight deadlines, so Hirata segmented the machine functions, organizing the teams to work in parallel. Hirata also used additional resources from a Rockwell Automation system integrator.

Since this was an industry first machine with extremely tight deadlines, the team needed to plan and manage challenges in real-time, debugging the total system at the overseas end-user’s location.

Solution

Hirata selected Rockwell Automation partly because of the company’s ability to offer global support. Hirata’s in-house production engineering capabilities and ability to deal with new category, “Monodukuri” (manufacturing) capability, created the industry’s first mass production line for electric vehicle batteries.

Hirata originally started the machine design using standard cells of their ACS; however, because of the required machine footprint reduction, Hirata needed to use one ACS for multiple operations.

To accomplish this, Hirata analyzed the operation of each piece of equipment and took a new approach to incorporating up to four operations in one station. To realize this concept, Hirata deployed multiple (up to three) gantries into one ACS. The gantries were controlled by Kinetix® 5700 servo drives that support a maximum of 23 axes. Each axis needed to operate in high-speed synchronously and move in three dimensions without interference.

Hirata designed the optimized axis architecture and programming with Rockwell Automation support and successfully created the smaller footprint, large scale, high-speed, high-precision and sophisticated production machine using the new ACS concept.

The machine connects to the end-user’s manufacturing execution system (MES) through Ethernet so machine data can be utilized to support real-time remote diagnostics and maintenance. Hirata can access machine data from anywhere in the world, eliminating travel costs. If onsite maintenance is required, technicians are prepared as they can access information – which also shortens troubleshooting time.

Rockwell Automation ControlLogix® control systems use a common control engine with a common development environment to provide high performance in an easy-to-use environment. For this machine, ControlLogix controllers were attached to each cell to control the servo motor to move and assemble battery materials. For high performance and safety control, Hirata used ControlLogix L8 and GuardLogix® L7S controllers.

Kinetix 5700 servo drives with safe torque off function and safety Ethernet (CIP safety) help expand the value of integrated motion on EtherNet/IP. In addition, these servo drives can help reduce commissioning time and improve machine performance, offering the wiring simplicity and space savings Hirata needed to get the machine up and running faster.

To move the conveyer between the cells, Hirata used PowerFlex® 525 AC drives which feature an innovative, modular design to support fast and easy installation and configuration. These drives were used to control multiple motors (one drive controls two motors).

Results

The metrics that are typically most important to Hirata include cycle time, operating rate and yield ratio. This time, Hirata also counted footprint reduction.

Hirata can move a step forward, collaborating with Rockwell Automation, to meet growing electric vehicle battery demand with their mass production line.

The results mentioned above are specific to Hirata’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

ControlLogix, GuardLogix, Kinetix and PowerFlex are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.

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