Automatic assembly of pliable components

10 questions that anyone developing an assembly application for pliable parts needs to ask (part 1).

It takes very little effort for pliable components such as cable harnesses and hoses to be deformed. When it comes to the assembly of pliable components, adaptivity is vitally important – previously one of the core competencies of human labour. We will provide you with an insight into a test in which pliable components were assembled by automated means. To start with, however, there are some key questions.

EDAG PS frequently focuses on areas relating to lightweight robots and human-robot collaboration. In this series, we combine the two. Our mission: to bring assembly processes into the 21st century!

Stable and pliable (or dimensionally unstable) components

General automation usually involves stable components with fixed positions, at which the component can be picked up, deposited and processed. They cannot be changed and cannot change themselves.

But what happens with a component made of soft rubber, and not stable sheet metal? How do you deal with the fact that the geometry of the component is constantly changing? Suddenly, the fixed positions are worthless.

Robots and assembly shops

For this reason, only dimensionally stable, metal materials are processed by robots in the body assembly shop. By contrast, very few robots are found in the assembly of pliable components. This includes, for example, fitting seals, belts, covers and fabric trims, positioning foot mats, or plugging connectors at the end of cables into the appropriate sockets.

If we were able to install pliable components by automated means, it would be possible to automate an area in which everything is done manually.

10 questions on the way to automated assembly

In the next few weeks, we will be providing you with insights into a student's thesis dealing with an experiment in which the automated assembly of "dimensionally unstable parts" is set up and managed.

Bild/picture: Biegeschlaffes Teil/pliable componentEDAG PS test laboratory in Sindelfingen, Germany

First, however, we need to ask the following questions:

  • What would be a suitable process?
  • How can we make life easier for the worker?
  • What component stability can be assumed?
  • What component instability can be assumed?
  • How can the unstable geometry be stabilised, to enable the component to be processed?
  • What should the test set-up look like?
  • If working with tension rollers: how many, and in what configuration?
  • Is it possible to reconstruct a simple test set-up in the laboratory?
  • Orientation towards a manufacturer or a certain model?
  • How should the process/tool be redesigned so that it is suitable for use with a robot?

Only a few weeks to go! Watch this space for more about the latest technology, exclusively from our research for practical applications.

Contact us - We collect our customers' requirements and search for possible applications for human-robot-collaboration. Our project leader for robot technology development, Daniel Roth, will be please to have any questions you might have, either by e-mail or telephone (+49 7031 861 749).