Major order from the automotive industry
ERKENBRECHTSWEILER The production line is for a major south German car manufacturer. The manufacturer stipulates that it will be one of the most cutting-edge car assembly facilities to date. "The aim is optimum flexibility," explains Markus Sterr, authorised signatory at topex and responsible for marketing and controlling. Several car models are to be manufactured in a single assembly line.
Unique marking of the body shell is a core element in the workflow, as Markus Sterr explains: "This stage is an absolutely key process, because this marking in the form of a self-adhesive label with a data matrix code printed in a variety of styles forms the basis for the whole intralogistics chain of the vehicle being assembled." It ensures that the body can be identified at every process and assembly stage. By networking the production processes with state-of-the-art information and communication technology, different processing stages can be assigned depending on the model.
"topex was involved in the customer's design process right from an early stage," explains Markus Sterr. One of the challenges was applying the label without damaging the bodywork. Once the specific manufacturing and vehicle data has been sent from the customer's central computer to the topex machine control system, a five-axis robot with integrated vacuum unit retrieves the label from the printer and moves to the front of the car body. Sensors continuously check that no direct contact with the surface is possible. The label is then "fired" into the exact position in the corresponding area with a blast of air.
The movements are precise to within half a millimetre.
"The label and in particular the adhesive were specially developed with us for this application," explains Markus Sterr. The nature of the adhesive means the label can be removed without trace after final assembly. As well as the thermal transfer printing process used in this case, topex also relies on laser marking systems and RFID technology for these applications.
"We are very satisfied," says Managing Director Karin Schwarz, who runs the company together with her father Karl Schwarz. She reports that business was buoyant for label machine specialist topex in 2018, and that the company is now proud to have acquired another well known vehicle manufacturer for this innovative solution, beating international competitors.
The workforce was further increased last year. The company now employs a staff of just under 60, including two apprentice Mechatronic Engineers.
According to Ms Schwarz, the outlook in the automotive sector is somewhat unfavourable, because the markets have significantly altered due to the diesel problem and changes in engine technology. "E-mobility is very much on the up: we are really noticing this," says Karin Schwarz, adding that her company is ready for this. It implemented its first e-mobility and battery manufacture projects last year.