It‘s all in the frame

Posted By on 2015-02-03

Some time ago, we have shown you our latest plant film and explained how such thing is created. Today we can tell you more about the newly launched production system:

Potholes, bumps, gravel roads: pick-ups like the VW Amarok have to withstand a lot. To ensure stability on any type of terrain, Volkswagen uses extremely rugged ladder frames. These frames are manufactured for the VW plant in Hanover by the metal-forming and chassis specialists at Gestamp. The Gestamp plant in Bielefeld is now using a fully automated gas metal arc welding system from KUKA Systems to ensure maximum quality, proven process reliability and high output with minimal manpower requirements.

In the past, Volkswagen AG Commercial Vehicles contracted a competitor of Gestamp in Argentina to produce the frames, which were largely manufactured manually. In June 2014, to accommodate growing demand while ensuring product quality, Gestamp Umformtechnik Bielefeld took over fully automated production of the ladder frame for the VW production facility in Hanover, which serves Europe and neighboring markets.

The very tight deadlines and space restrictions presented a special challenge during the planning stage. Every last bit of the 3,000 square-meter facility had to be used efficiently for production and logistics. Together with Gestamp, the KUKA designers identified each necessary production step, planned the necessary workflows and consolidated all these requirements into a tailored configuration of stations and lines. The subassemblies of the ladder frame (side members, cross members and add-on parts) are manufactured in fourteen highly standardized welding stations, each with one component loading station and two fixtures. KUKA dual turnover positioners are used to place all components in the best position with regard to ergonomics or processes. This way, operators or robots have optimal access to the components at all times. The finished side members and cross members are then by picked up by fully automated linear gantries.

The finished Amarok ladder frame weighs 230 kg, is almost five meters long and almost one and a half meters wide, making it the largest part ever produced at the Gestamp plant in Bielefeld. Well over 200 individual steel parts are used to produce it. This is a big challenge for KUKA as a system integrator because not all components were inherently suitable for an automatic joining process. In addition, a high cycle time means that many work steps must take place in a very limited space, making processes much more complex overall. Thanks to the sustainable, automated and monitored welding process, a very stable and even joint is created. This is a very important feature when welding Amarok ladder frames, which have weld seams totaling some 80 meters in length.

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