Advantages of the Stäubli solution
Speed, precision and reproducibility
• Technical performance, speed, precision, reproducibility
• Time savings of 50% on 3D programming and setup, plus another 15% in the manufacturing chain
• Conforms to 0.2 mm accuracy specifications
• Prototype tires are now being carved in batches of six or more
• In it’s first year, the fully automated solution produced 1,500 units
Automating to increase precision and reduce production time
Based in Hannover, Germany, Continental counts among the world’s leading tire makers. Originally founded as a rubber manufacturer in 1871, the company’s Rubber Group specializes in developing tires for cars and trucks in small quantities for testing purposes.
The treads on these prototype tires have traditionally always been carved by hand, a time-consuming process that requires the operator to take extremely precise measurements, marking and then cutting using hot-wire tools, all manually. With this method, one prototype tire can be produced in about 40 hours.
A high level of precision is required to carve the tread profiles to within an overall accuracy of 0.2 millimeters. This job is made even more difficult due to the smooth blocks of rubber (“slicks”) that are not all identical in size, shape and dimension.
Which is why, in 2012 Continental decided to automate the various steps involved in the prototyping process, the main goals being to save time and improve reproductive accuracy of the profiles.
A robot at the heart of a complex system
The automated system, which nonetheless requires the expert knowledge and handling of an operator, was a joint development between Continental and preccon Robotics. Since its installation, the setup, known as RACE (Robot Accuracy Carving Efficiency), has been achieving the highest standards of reproducibility and productivity, with 1,500 units produced in 2014, an innovative solution that won the 2014 Robotics award.
With the arrival of the ultra-precise Stäubli RX160 six-axis robot, responsible for everything from the measuring and marking to the carving and drilling of the tire treads, the plant has also achieved notable time savings.
Performance and accuracy
« Compared to the previous semi-automated solution, RACE saves us around 50 percent of the time we would have spent on 3D programming and setup alone », says Tassadit Makhloufi, Head of Tire Carving & Mechanical Processing.
A second, identical robotic cell has recently been ordered and includes OLP (Off-line Programming) specifically developed for measuring and carving tire treads.
« It’s only with the Stäubli RX160 that we can meet the demanding accuracy requirements of this application », says preccon Robotics CEO Hartmut Lindner. « The precision and rigidity of this six-axis robot are outstanding and absolutely necessary for tire carving. »
The total system takes advantage of the robots’ technical precision to improve performance and accuracy of tread reproduction. This, in turn, ensures that the company can respond even more quickly to their clients and to the future demands of tire development.
The Stäubli RX160 robots that we have installed meet the overall accuracy requirement of 0.2 mm even under high cutting loads. The industrial robots are at the heart of the plant.Hartmut Lindner, CEO at preccon Robotics GmbH
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