SICK’s sensor and camera technology provide visual guidance to robots on Ford production line

Automotive manufacturers the world over are increasingly relying on automation
and standardisation of process workflows to remain competitive in the global

The Ford plant at Niehl near Cologne uses an innovative and fully
automated robotic solution in two workstations on the production line. The
robot is being used to screw the airbag module in the passenger compartment as
well as the locking clip striker for the tailgate. RESA Systems, an automation
specialist from Saarwellingen, Germany, was appointed as the main contractor
for the project with SICK supplying the sensor and camera technology to process
all relevant information.

The application involves an industrial robot screwing the airbag module
into place on the centre console of the car while a second industrial robot
screws the tailgate striker into place. Once the car body has entered the
station, a scanner detects the car body data and sends the information directly
to the controller. The robot for the airbag module picks up the appropriate module
in its gripper and then positions it in the car before screwing it into place.

The five different airbag modules are brought to the robot’s discharge
station on an inbound belt approximately ten metres in length, having had their
position and load checked upstream by the Lector62x image-based code reader. A
VSPM-6 Inspector 2D vision sensor from SICK detects the exact position of the threaded
bolt for the airbag module. A nut infeed system with singulation supplies the nuts
for screwing the airbag into place.

The second robot (in the robot cell) screws the tailgate striker into
place with a template used to position the striker beforehand. The VSPM-6
Inspector is once again used to detect the exact position of the screws for the
tailgate striker.

As the intelligent image processing solution in the sensor package, the
VSPM-6 Inspector checks and measures objects even in high-speed production processes.
Its powerful object finder supplies accurate data regardless of the position, size,
and angle of rotation.

The Lector62x image-based code reader by SICK is being used by Ford for the
first time in final assembly at its plant in Cologne. Tailored specifically to
meet industrial requirements, the Lector62x identifies 1D, 2D, and directly
applied codes on moving or stationary objects, even if the quality of the codes
is poor. The camera is linked directly to the plant controller.

According to Klaus Pübben, key account manager at SICK, a single
software solution is able to process all read types, and is also one of the factors
enhancing the company’s ability to position itself on the market as a full-service

Pübben explains that SICK is always able to provide a solution to meet individual
requirements from 1D and 2D codes to 2D vision and RFID among others. SICK has
developed its own user interface SOPAS (SICK Open Portal for Application and
Systems Engineering Tool) to serve as a configuration tool. He adds that SICK’s
holistic approach, which enables the company to offer their customers the right
all-encompassing solution for their specific requirements, is also increasingly
in demand on the market.

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