Members press release

COMAU, Italy - IFR Robot Supplier member

COMAU and sheet metal stamping - new skills for all-around automation

Already in the mid-70s, Comau, the leading Italian company in industrial automation, robotics and mechatronics, had developed specific robots to automate the handling of sheet metal in stamping lines, facilitating a significant increase in productivity and safety for the operators.

Comau is a true pioneer. Since the beginning, when the need emerged to increase the performance of these types of applications and of the robots, the company has employed workers and resources and obtained two important results: 1) strong research and development activities- to offer mechanisms and software to meet the demands of the customers - and 2) the need for new skills which, used in largely automated applications, might be able to study the mechanisms, controls, safety devices and software of the robots in order to integrate the robots with the presses, to develop software capable of handling the production at an integrated level, to lead a fully automated line and to interact with high-level technologies.

Over time, the early robotic solutions have been further developed to better meet the changing needs of customers, including different sizes of stamped parts, high number of production batches and new materials employed. Today, after more than 30 years of business and hundreds of lines installed, Comau offers a new generation of robots to give customers - mainly within two categories - increasingly efficient advanced solutions. On one hand there is the car manufacturer who produces in-house sheet metal components for exterior parts (which have large dimensions and tend to have highly numerous production batches). On the other hand, there is the Tier-one that produces both structural and external parts (which are smaller, with less numerous production batches) and works for multiple customers. Their needs are different.

In the first case there is the need for a high production rate; on the other hand, the need for plant flexibility. However, they share the objectives of cost reduction and improved quality. This situation, among other things, happens both when the use of the robot is limited to stamping presses, and in the case in which the robot is employed in production cells where other phases are integrated, such as the flaking, brushing, and washing of sheet metal, racking it in containers that are subsequently transported to the assembly lines, or other processes.

These multiple needs require increasing skills by those who design, install, start, manage, monitor and maintain the stamping line. Used within hot or cold stamping lines, Robotics (this is one of the most obvious cases) such as the systems proposed by Comau, can achieve these objectives, thereby improving the working conditions of the operators, creating new jobs and increasing performance, efficiency and productivity.

This is a trend that, at least for Comau, is not likely to change direction. A series of examples confirms this. First of all, the advent of the servo press implies the need for a stronger link between the robot and the press and to manage the machine almost like a controlled axis. In this way, it is possible to optimize the synchronization in order to have a sort of continuous motion of the press. It's a highly current issue for which Comau is investing heavily, both at a software level and at a mechanical level of the robot. This example demonstrates how new skills are being put to work  in tandem with an increase in productivity and the removal of people from potentially dangerous work positions.

We can also add to the discussion the use of new types of boron steel for hot stamping, or, more generally, the issue of hot stamping itself. Hot forming, as it is called, in which the sheets pass through an oven that heats them up to about 950 °C after which they are inserted into the press using molds equipped with a cooling circuit to bring the temperature of the sheet metal to 250°C. This process of stamping and tempering sheet metal is intended for the production of structural elements of small and medium-size cars.

These are examples of new technologies and new materials whereby, once again, the professionalism and technique applied to automation, under the drive of constant innovation, is what defines Comau. In this way, robotics can offer a concrete boost for better working conditions and the creation of new jobs without relinquishing performance, efficiency and productivity.

For any other information about Comau's Press Shop Automation Solutions, please contact Mr Roberto Dudda - Comau Robotics Segment Manager Press Line Automation - roberto.dudda(at)comau.com