Because of the steady increase in consumer adoption for Electric Vehicles (EVs), the battery supply chain has experienced a surge in demand. To address this need, manufacturers are looking to robotic automation for fast and reliable assembly options to effectively reduce the demand-supply gap. But, why exactly are robots helpful? And, how are they best used in this environment?
Advantages of Using Robotic Automation for the Battery Industry
Handle Large and Heavy Tray Assemblies
For the building up of most tray assemblies, robotic automation really is the only logical solution – as tray assemblies are generally large and heavy. Certain vehicle battery trays can be as large as six feet by eight feet and weigh almost 300 lbs. The weight and size of these assemblies – as well as the necessary placement of the battery – make robot utilization a smart choice.
Accommodate Multiple Processes
From moving heavy workpieces or spraying adhesives for battery installation, to flow drilling metal, a lot goes into making a battery tray assembly, including GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding) and RSW (Resistance Spot Welding). Widely popular with automobile manufacturers for lightweighting (reducing vehicle component weight to better improve fuel economy), the use of aluminum alloys is also driving the need for alternative welding methods like Henrob self-piercing riveting, fixed and remote laser welding, as well as hybrid laser welding. And, depending on the assembly tray design (i.e., cast design), there may be a need for robotic machining as well.
Create a Safer Working Environment
Many of the applications previously listed present risk factors and can be harmful to human workers. From heavy and repetitive lifting of parts, to the inhalation of toxic fumes during the adhesive dispensing process, the use of robots for these potentially dangerous activities is advised. As a side benefit, the use of robotic automation for these tasks can free human workers to perform higher value-added jobs like path programming, quality inspection or technical support.
What Type of Robots Are Ideal In the Battery Industry Space
Powerful, Streamlined, Extended-Reach Robots
For flow drilling applications, Henrob self-piercing riveting and other machining tasks, a six-axis heavy payload robot with a long reach, good rigidity and a reduced interference design like the GP280L is ideal.
Versatile, High-Performance Robots
For material handling tasks, or adhesive and sealant dispensing applications, a robust six-axis robot with a streamlined design, fast axis speeds and high moment of inertia ratings is helpful. While part size will drive the necessary robot payload, popular robots for these tasks in the battery industry tend to be the GP180, GP225 and GP400.
Certain laser applications, like 2D scanning, fixed optics and laser cutting, may find the use of a GP50, GP88 or GP110 robot advantageous. These small footprint robots offer impressive reaches for their size, as well as good repeatability (depending on requirements).
Highly Reliable, Powerful and Efficient Welding Robots
For RSW, a high-speed six-axis robot with exceptionally quick axis speeds and acceleration for reduced air-cut time is advised. Various robot models included in the SP-series line of robots offer a wide wrist motion range to eliminate interference, a slim profile to facilitate high-density spacing and reaching into tight spaces, as well as an integrated spot harness for optimized wrist flexibility and reduced downtime.
A newer trend for resistance spot welding is the use of GP180 or GP225 robots. This provides manufacturers with the flexibility to utilize the same robot (with different dress options) for multiple applications, such as dispensing or material handling. This also allows for greater competitiveness in certain situations, enabling greater return on investment (ROI).
For GMAW applications, six-axis AR-series robots that offer the highest payload, fastest speed and highest wrist allowable moment in their class are suggested. Application specific robots like this help to optimize process capability and improve product quality, while increasing product output. AR-series robots are compatible with the easy-to-use Universal Weldcom Interface (UWI) pendant application that enables the full utilization of the advanced capabilities of select welding power sources.
Next Step for Moving Forward
Once manufacturers have a good handle on their product design, reaching out to a robot supplier or integrator is a good next step. Talking to an expert can help decision makers see the big picture, as well as understand the process that is involved to achieve the necessary volumes to satisfy demand.
Heath Lynnes is a Key Account Manager