Fast and Flexible Assembly in the Automotive Industry

Gefit, an Alessandria-based global company that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, has designed and built a line for the assembly of a powertrain component for the automotive sector.
A flexible line with an extremely short cycle time that uses the Epson SCARA light robots (LS3-401S and LS6-602C models), which ensure repeatability, speed and precision with a small footprint.

by Fabrizio Dalle Nogare

When – in 1967 – Pietro Zavattaro founded Gefit, the company headquarters were located outside the city of Alessandria. Today, fifty-one years later, the production plant is still there, incorporated in the meantime by the city expansion. In short, the world around has changed. And over the years Gefit has been looking at the world, as the company is now also present in the United States, Hungary, China and Russia (see box) with production plants and sales offices, as well as in many other countries with its assembly machines built right there where everything started. “Over the years, even in the most difficult times of the crisis, Gefit has never ceased to probe the market, invest and propose itself to new customers, in Italy and especially abroad”, says Sales Manager Marco Carniato, who welcomed us in Alessandria. “It was not easy to get in touch with big global groups, especially in the automotive sector, but we were able to build an image of seriousness and competence that, today, is recognized by the market. The high quality of our machines and a – non-rhetoric – flexibility that only Italy has allow us to be present even in very competitive markets, such as Germany or France”

Industry 4.0 and beyond…
The automotive sector remains Gefit reference sector for automation systems, even though it is not the only sector in which the company is engaged. “Depending on the needs, the volume of production, the customer requests and also the target market, we are able to find the most suitable solution, modulating the machine level of automation”, continues Mr Carniato, who has a very specific idea about Industry 4.0 and digitization. “If we talk about interconnection, efficiency, traceability, the assembly machine sector has been applying some of the key principles of Industry 4.0 for some time now. The next step is the ability to acquire production data with integrated systems that makes it possible to detect any anomalies and make prompt interventions to prevent any downtime. From a software or computational capacity perspective, there are many possibilities, and research, in our sector, can never stop”.

A flexible line to assemble and test a powertrain component
Research and development, therefore, as keys to be competitive in a demanding sector such as automotive. Precisely for this sector, Gefit has recently created a line for the assembly of a motion transmission powertrain component, commissioned by an important French company. “A new product consisting of 5 sub-components had to be assembled and tested with a very short cycle time”, explains Marco Carniato. “To guarantee a certain flexibility, a modular system consisting of several machines has been developed, so to make the system more easily convertible. All without compromising on efficiency and guaranteeing a cycle time of 30 seconds”. The line created by Gefit counts, as well as on the IAI linear axes, on a dozen of SCARA Epson LS series robots of different sizes: both products are distributed in Italy by Sinta. In particular, the robots used in this line (SCARA light model LS3-401S and LS6-602C) ensure an excellent balance between value and performance. The first robot has a 400-mm arm and a vertical axis with a 150-mm stroke, manages a 3-kg payload
and can apply a 100-N load. The second one has a 600-mm arm, a vertical axis with a 200-mm stroke,
a payload of up to 6 kg and can apply a 100-N load.

Choosing the SCARA robots
“During the design stage we consider many variables: the component features, its weight, the machine cycle time and so on – says Mr Carniato – which allow us to define the type of robot. In this case, we chose the SCARAs because they guarantee repeatability, speed and precision. Another important factor was their compactness, as the available spaces were limited and the robots had to have small footprints”.In the line, SCARA robots perform pick & place and assembly operations: depending on the type of gripper, they can be adjusted to perform both operations.
In addition to automation solutions such as rotary tables, vibrating feeders or hydraulic handling systems, especially when the force required as a function of time is higher, the assembly line offers very advanced solutions for artificial vision and control. n