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News

ABB robots blast away paint build up on skids at Land Rover

ABB Limited (Group Headquarters) : 03 June, 2003  (New Product)
ABB, the global power and automation technologies group, has supplied three industrial robots to the Paint Shop at Land Rover's manufacturing facility in Solihull, West Midlands. The foundry-specification robots are used as high-pressure water cleaners for the removal of paint build-up on paint shop skids. The skids are moving bases that hold the car body as it travels around the paint shop.
ABB, the global power and automation technologies group, has supplied three industrial robots to the Paint Shop at Land Rover's manufacturing facility in Solihull, West Midlands. The foundry-specification robots are used as high-pressure water cleaners for the removal of paint build-up on paint shop skids. The skids are moving bases that hold the car body as it travels around the paint shop.

Commissioned in February 2002, this innovative and environmentally friendly skid cleaning facility was designed by Land Rover's in-house engineers as a result of their search for an efficient and cost effective skid paint removal process. Key attributes required were the effective elimination of build-up of paint on the skid; a reduction in the number of skids kept in stock, and a measurable drop in environmental impact of the cleaning process.

As part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, Land Rover's range of prestige vehicles is synonymous with an immaculate paint finish, which can only be achieved in a contaminate-free paint shop environment. For many years, Land Rover has placed great effort and resources into keeping skids free from contaminates which inevitably build-up during the paint process.

In the past Land Rover used a sub-contract operation for skid cleaning where the assemblies were baked at 350oC to remove cured paint build-up. As well as the cost of sub-contracting the operation, significant manpower resources were expended in loading and unloading the skids for delivery/return to and from the sub-contractor. Land Rover would send out between 50 and 80 skids each month, which also meant that a second set of skids were held in reserve to use while the other batch was being cleaned. Over time, there was unavoidable damage to the skids, as they were continually handled by forklift trucks and structural weaknesses were induced by the baking process.

Land Rover designed its new skid cleaning system around robotic capability and invited suppliers to submit competitive tenders. As a Ford-nominated supplier, ABB was assessed for the project on its capability to supply bespoke industrial robots that could stand-up to the rigours of a wet, hostile environment.

Satisfied with ABB's credentials and relevant expertise and experience, Land Rover progressed with ABB in fully designing the facility.

The new robotic skid wash system was designed to take away the need to outsource the cleaning process and fit neatly and unobtrusively into the paint shop cycle. On a daily basis, the paint solids and other contaminates are now removed from the skids with high-pressure (800 bar), abrasive water and the ABB robots provide a robust structure to withstand the reactive force of the water jet. The skid cleaning facility, which is housed in a stainless steel acoustic chamber, is 15m long by 6m wide and is supplied by a network of 20 powered, roller beds. The cycle time of the skid-wash is just 38 seconds per skid, and the cleaning facility manages between 60 and 75 skids per hour.

Each skid incorporates a transmitter, which is essential for the manufacturing facility to monitor the location of each car body. In the past, this transmitter had to be manually removed when the skid was sent for cleaning. With the new skid-wash system however, the transmitter is permanently fixed and the robots are programmed to clean with care around the device.

The robots have complete versatility. The Range Rover, Discovery and Land Rover all have different underbody profiles and thus the skids come in a variety of different shapes. Also, the robots have to cope with a random sequence of skids, say a Range Rover skid and then a Discovery skid, so ABB has developed easy-change programming to accommodate this.

Since the installation of the new skid-wash system, all skid cleaning is carried out in-house and an audit is currently taking place to assess the extent of cost savings.
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