Aisin has begun efforts to automate the assembly process of soft parts such as rubber tubes and wires. It is generally considered difficult to automate soft parts that tend to shake or change shape when lifted. , made it happen. Aisin believes in overcoming the impossible through improvement and challenge.
Aisin’s Shintoyo Plant (Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture) was able to automate the assembly of soft parts. This plant produces drive units used for sliding doors, back doors, seats, etc. Among them, automation was introduced to the assembly process of the sensor “touch sensor” installed in the power back door system.
The sensor is a one meter long piece of rubber that bends when lifted. Therefore, it is necessary to install the sensor accurately along the resin “bracket”. In the past, manual work was required to attach double-sided tape to the sensor and align it with the bracket.
The challenge in automation was how to control the position of the soft body part and how to reproduce the feeling of the human finger when fitting it in the robot. In order to solve this problem, we searched for the optimum conditions by sensing the pressure and angle required for fitting. We also considered a mechanism to stabilize the position of the soft parts. Koji Shibata, General Manager of the Production Engineering Section of Aisin’s Group Production Engineering Headquarters, said, “Humans can assemble things by feeling, but robots only move to specified forces and positions.” Kanehiro Nagata, General Manager of the Shintoyo Plant of the Auto Body Company, also talks about the difficulty, saying, “Automakers say that soft body parts are the ‘last point for improvement,’ and the entire manufacturing industry is facing this difficulty.” increase.
Therefore, Aisin worked to review its product structure. The bracket has a dent for inserting the sensor, and it has been changed so that the sensor can be fitted accurately. Industrial robots can now accurately attach sensors while moving to 40-50 recesses in the bracket. Even if the shape of the vehicle body or bracket changes, Aisin has developed a robot hand in-house so that it can respond. It was also designed to be flexible so that future changes and improvements can be made. As a result of overcoming this difficulty, the structural change improved productivity by 2.6 times compared to manual work.
Since around 2017, the Shintoyo Factory has been fully automated. Mechanical parts for seats are mainly hard pressed parts, and the automation rate is high. On the other hand, manual labor played a major role in operations involving soft parts such as back doors. However, by advancing improvements, we succeeded in automating more than half of the process by 2022. By 2025, we aim to achieve a high level of automation, similar to that of seat parts. Plant Manager Nagata is enthusiastic about further improvements, stating, “I would like to spread the know-how related to the automation of soft parts to other lines and plants in Japan and overseas.”
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