COMPANY NEWS: KUKA KUKA robots in microelectronics

Editor: Susanne Hertenberger

A total of 25 KUKA robots are in operation at Possehl Electronics in Niefern, Germany. There, they manufacture complex timing cases for electric power steering systems for cars.

At the core of the system, three KR AGILUS robots precisely place components into the injection molding machine.
At the core of the system, three KR AGILUS robots precisely place components into the injection molding machine.
(Source: KUKA)

Absolute precision as primary objective

The primary objective at Possehl Electronics is absolute precision. At the company’s site in Niefern near Pforzheim in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, Possehl develops and manufactures highly complex electro-mechanical precision components for the automotive industry, which involves stamping, galvanic coating and injection molding operations as well as automation solutions. Since 2013, Possehl has been reliant on a robot-based automation across three production lines in order to manufacture complex control casings for electric power steering in various models produced by well-known car manufacturers. At the Group’s primary plant in Niefern, a total of 25 KUKA robots insert stamped parts into injection molding machines with a precision level of 0.1 millimeters and very short cycle times using special grippers.


Short individual cycle times

The aim was to ensure that Possehl could not only handle a wide range of different components in a robust und reliable manner, but also coordinate multiple processes and maintain extremely short individual cycle times. The final two requirements were a high level of availability and very high quality requirements. “In terms of robot kinematics, our flexibility requirements meant that only articulated robots could be taken into consideration,” says Gläss. In addition, the only way to make the operating and programming interface compatible with the injection molding machines was to combine the KUKA robots with an fpt user interface. “At times we had to teach the robots to within 0.1 millimeters to achieve the required level of precision,” recalls Gläss.

Perfect interaction between multiple robots

At Possehl in Niefern, a total of 25 KUKA robots now work precisely and reliably in the production lines ¬– these include several small robots from the KR AGILUS series, a KR 5 arc robot and several KUKA robots from the medium payload range. The production processes carried out at the three lines are similar: “Trays stocked with leadframes are delivered to a robot cell in stacks via a conveyor belt,” explains Robert Tesch, Head of Industrial Engineering for stamping, injection and automation technology. A KUKA robot of type KR 5 arc then removes the uppermost tray and places it on the stillage. It picks up empty trays and stacks them on the output conveyor. A KUKA preparatory robot of type KR 6 R900 then places the leadframe into the stamping die on a rotary indexing table with four stamping tools which separate the vehicle connector pins from the leadframe. Four KR 6 R900 KUKA robots from the KR AGILUS series each remove five vehicle connectors, three sensor pins and two battery connector pins from the stamping tools and place them into two transfers sliders which represent the central interface between the preparatory and injection molding processes. A KUKA robot from the medium payload range loads the injection molding machine. “This robot and the KR 6 R900 robots are the cornerstone of the system”, says Tesch. They work together in perfect synchronization and with the utmost precision to ensure that 52 stamped parts are inserted into the injection molding machine in the shortest time possible with a precision level of 0.1 millimeters. The KUKA robot from the medium payload range uses its special gripper to remove the prepared raw parts from the transfer slider four at a time and place them into the tool where they are injection-molded into technical plastic components. It then sets the completed control casings down ad a transfer station. There they are collected by a small KUKA robot and placed in a tray on a round table for a final inspection prior to the sorting stage.

“This solution has significantly contributed to increased productivity,” says Tesch with delight. Possehl Electronics uses the system and production concepts in Niefern in an effort to put highly standardized and robust automation concepts into series production, thereby reducing system costs and implementation times. This is the only way to develop competitive concepts for customers and also to make the German site a profitable production location in global terms. “Due to the positive experiences we have had, we will continue to deploy six-axis KUKA robots and make us of those that are currently in use for subsequent generations,” says Tesch.