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Not Your Father’s Assembly Line
Posted on October 18th, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & ApplicationsWould Henry Ford be more amazed by the technological complexity of contemporary automobiles or that of the contemporary assembly lines which produce them?Fresh on the heels of National Manufacturing Day and my previous post on today’s high-tech careers in manufacturing, Alfa Romeo and Comau published details about the advanced technology production line being used to frame their sporty, new Giulia line. One look at sheer density of industrial robots being used – 18 overhead mounted to increase flexibility while minimizing cell footprint – and their precisely choreographed sequence of moves as the body-in-white (BIW) takes form and it’s easy to appreciate that as much engineering goes into designing the manufacturing process as designing the car itself. If Henry Ford were able to witness the process, I bet he would be more wowed by the advancements in cell manufacturing.
Before trying to appreciate the complexity required to manufacture all the Giulia frame variants in the range of their required materials on one assembly line, it would be instructive to witness the final process. The following video not only highlights the goals sought by the joint team, but also shows the precision and flow of the process. It’s interesting to note that not a single human being is shown throughout the video.
Alfa Romeo will manufacture four variants on the same assembly line, three trim levels of the Giulia (Giulia, Giulia Super, Giulia Veloce) along with a high performance model known as the Giulia Quadrifoglio. Each shares the same lightweighting architecture making extensive use of materials such as aluminum. A carbon fiber roof is featured in the Quadrifoglio model, so the assembly line had to accommodate the flexibility to laser braze aluminum roof panels of the standard trims along with the gluing, layup, and infrared polymerization required of carbon fiber.
Impressed yet by the complexity of this problem and the technology deployed in its solution? Consider that the line also needed the flexibility to accommodate future products or variants and fit within the existing footprint available in the Cassino, Italy plant and you’ll begin to appreciate the level of engineering accomplish by this generation of makers.
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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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