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Ford Dagenham automates operations with seven Universal Robots

17 October 2019

Ford Dagenham has invested in seven UR10 Universal Robots from RARUK Automation to automate the previously manual task of applying fasteners to engine blocks. The fasteners are now applied automatically to engines that arrive on the production line every 30 seconds, across a 24-hour, three-shift operation.

The engine manufacturing plant at Dagenham is iconic among UK automotive facilities. Employing around 1,830 people, this 44-acre site produces around 750,000 diesel engines every year for passenger cars and vans. Current products include Duratorq TDCi engines (1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8 and 2.2 litre) for models that include the Fiesta, Focus, B-MAX, C-MAX, Grand C-MAX, Ecosport, Transit and Transit Connect.

Until recently, the task of securing exhaust manifolds to engine blocks using M8 studs and nuts, as well as different types of barrel nut, was performed by an employee operating an electric screwdriver tool. However, to help improve cost efficiency and reduce RSI, the company identified the process as a suitable candidate for automation. As up to six studs and nuts require application on each engine block, the potential savings were notable.

With Universal Robots already operating successfully elsewhere in the Ford plant portfolio, the team at Dagenham contacted UK sales and support agent, RARUK Automation. Factors influencing Ford Dagenham to invest in seven UR10 Universal Robots included speed of installation, ease of programming and price.

All seven Universal Robots were up and running at Ford Dagenham by December 2018. With regard to process configuration, a vibratory bowl feeder is deployed to offer up individual fasteners, which are blown through a tube using compressed air to an escapement. From here, a dedicated screwdriver tool bolted the flange of the Universal Robots picks up the fastener and runs it down the thread in the engine block to secure the exhaust manifold in position. Development of the process and application was fully supported by RARUK Automation, including training.

Although renowned for their collaborative (cobot) operational capabilities, the UR10s at Ford Dagenham are currently being deployed as ‘cohabitant’ robots rather than true cobots. This has avoided the need to reorganise and recertify the production line from a safety perspective, saving time and cost. 

The UR10 from Universal Robots offers a reach of 1,300mm and a 10kg payload. As the largest model in the range, the UR10 is suitable for bigger tasks where precision and reliability are still of paramount importance.

Ford Dagenham’s use of these robots is helping to reduce costs in a number of ways. Aside from savings by redeploying manual labour, the robots also eliminate the need for breaks, thus boosting productivity, as well as potential lost time through sickness or absenteeism. In addition, any possibility of operator fatigue or RSI is negated, while process repeatability is improved as there is no longer any chance of operator error.


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