Comau, a global leader in industrial automation, has already established successful automated production systems for the automotive industry and many other sectors.
With over 45 years of experience in technology and systems for electric, hybrid, and traditional vehicle manufacturing, industrial robots, autonomous logistics, and more, Comau helps manufacturers of all sizes experience higher quality, increased productivity, faster time-to-market, and lower overall costs. Comau wanted to broaden their line with the addition of quality checking solutions.
By collaborating with the RapidFit team on these fixtures, they can retain their core advantages thanks to faster lead times, lighter tools, and modular systems that ultimately improve quality checking for their end customers.
In order for Comau to expand their offering for car manufacturers, they decided to introduce checking fixture solutions, such as Meisterbocks, to their lineup. With their extensive expertise in automation, robotics, logistics, and digital manufacturing, they were perfectly positioned to do so.
With the introduction of these new fixtures into their lineup, they knew that they wanted to offer more to their customers. The automotive industry is rapidly evolving, so every supplier and manufacturer needs to innovate and keep up with the latest technologies to maintain their position at the forefront. This is why the Comau team focused on providing solutions that are quick, adaptable, and reliable.
Quick, to reduce the time their engineers need to spend on designing and get end-parts to the customers faster. Adaptable, so as parts need replacing, customers don’t need to wait weeks for an entirely new system. Reliable, in a demanding industry where dependability is absolutely critical. Without high-quality checking fixtures, how can car manufacturers ensure that their vehicles are top of the line and, more importantly, safe?
Comau turned to RapidFit to get valuable support in achieving these goals.
Both teams had previously worked together on smaller tools for welding lines, so with this larger Meisterbock project, the Comau team was already drawn to 3D printing because of its modularity and speed.
“This is the future of the automotive industry.” — Salvatore Dario Lorusso, Global Quality Manager, Project & Solutions Engineering and Technology, Comau
“Since we had successful additive manufacturing projects in the past, we wanted to add the technology’s benefits to our quality checking systems as well,” explains Salvatore Dario Lorusso, Global Quality Manager — Project & Solutions Engineering and Technology at Comau. “We knew RapidFit had extensive expertise in Meisterbocks and, of course, additive technologies. These reasons drove us to choose RapidFit to collaborate with. This is the future of the automotive industry.”
With RapidFit’s complete in-house manufacturing process, the team had no problem meeting Comau’s speed and quality requirements. The technique began with design, creating a model using the latest and most effective technologies. Next came production of the solution. During this step, the team assembled the fixtures via post-machining and CNC milling in our temperature-controlled environment and handled all of the necessary post-processing steps. Then, the fixture was calibrated via our top-of-the-line coordinate measure machines (CMMs), ensuring high-quality and accurate results. Once the system was ready, our Key Account Manager inspected the final result alongside Comau to ensure the solution meets their expectations and deadlines. To accommodate for distance from the customer or traveling restrictions, this step could also be completed digitally.
Once the final checking fixture was complete and in Comau’s hands, 3D printing’s quick design process stepped in, enabling all modifications to be printed as needed thanks to the modular system.
“In the automotive industry, 3D printing is not just present because it’s exciting and new,” says Asil Uzman, Key Account Manager at RapidFit. “3D printing offers the flexibility and rapid time-to-market that is necessary for demanding and ever-evolving industries such as this. This is why it’s the perfect fit for the quality checking fixtures we collaborated on with Comau.”
Two major advantages of additive manufacturing (AM) that benefitted this case go hand in hand: speed and adaptability. Comau frequently works with tight deadlines that conventional manufacturing methods could not meet. If a new part or an adjustment in design is needed quickly, AM is the perfect solution to streamline their internal supply chain process.
With designs stored digitally, modifications can be made within just a few hours, engineering efforts are greatly reduced, and Comau can even receive small 3D-printed parts in as little as one day. The Comau team can then easily attach the new 3D-printed parts to the modular frame, eliminating the need for different frames with each design update. This is a huge improvement over conventional methods where the entire Meisterbock would travel between customer and supplier for every necessary iteration.
But this speed does not compromise the strength and quality of the parts. In quality checking lines where hundreds of car parts may be tested per day, the parts need to hold up. Components printed for Comau’s checking fixtures prove their strength repeatedly. And thanks to 3D printing’s freedom of design, these highly resistant parts can still maintain a light weight.
“The weight reduction enabled by 3D printing is a major benefit for us, especially since we work with robotics to handle, assemble, move, and check parts,” says Salvatore. “Lightweight parts put less of a burden on our robots, meaning that we can reduce the size of our robots, therefore reducing the cost of investment both internally and from our customers.”
With 3D printing, automotive quality checking can be faster and more reliable than ever before. And thanks to quick and customer-dedicated support from RapidFit’s account managers, Comau could work with a team devoted to getting them their parts in a timely manner. The two teams came together to prove the significant advantages additive manufacturing has over conventional methods.
“I’ve had a very positive experience working with RapidFit,” shares Rareș Baciu, Mechanical Design Engineer at Comau. “The team is very professional, and we can always expect agility in their responses.”
In an industry where many organizations are used to the traditional ways, the proof of success from this case encourages others to adopt AM as a reliable manufacturing method, especially to further embrace digitalization associated with Industry 4.0 — a must for companies to ensure they’re future-proof.