What if there was a simple way to make cars lighter, better and at the same time easier to make, which manufacturer wouldn’t pursue that? Audi is certainly always trying to improve methods of manufacturing. Now Audi introduced a couple of new robots at its paint shop in Győr, Hungary. And they do very surprising things with very surprising results.
Part of manufacturing process is sealing of the body. Factory workers have to apply some paste-like sealing material on welding seams and other areas that require some extra attention. This sealing paste, obviously, seals the car, preventing water from getting into the welds or even into the car itself. Sealing paste also helps with vehicle acoustics (prevents squeaking and rattling) and doesn’t allow corrosion to settle into these fragile areas – welds are always prone to oxidation. Normally, factory workers would by applying the sealing paste, but that job is not easy.
Sometimes workers have to squeeze themselves into tight areas to apply the paste. Very often they have to work with their hands way above their head, which is an ergonomic nightmare. And that’s where the new robots come in.
Audi has filed a patent application on a new, automated process known as digital sealing. It is a new way of applying sealing paste to car bodies. Here a robotic arm uses an applicator to precisely apply the right amount of sealing material. That amount is selected by the operator. Robots work quicker, more efficiently and worker avoid getting into uncomfortable positions. But the benefits don’t stop there – this method also makes cars more efficient and environmentally friendly.
Robots apply precisely the amount of sealing material that is needed in a specific location. This means that less sealant is wasted and the process itself is quicker, because workers don’t have to clean the mess they sometimes would make. Furthermore, cars can be lighter due to sealing material being thinner and only applied where it is absolutely needed. In fact, Audi estimates that this could bring weight savings of several kilogrammes.
Audi is already teaching these robots some new tricks – German car manufacturer is trying to apply digital sealing technology to sealing the cut-outs for the rear lights, known as the “lamp pots.” This requires a lot of precision, but hopefully it will work. Audi is already planning to integrate digital sealing technology in other plants as well.