Lotus is refurbishing its plant in Hethel and has instructed the Italian Dürr subsidiary CPM to build a flexible, innovative production line for car manufacturing. ProFleet-AGVs specially designed for final assembly will be used here. CPM will be using Wiferion’s wireless battery charging systems to supply power to its ProFleet AGV.
Flexible assembly concept for Lotus
In 2020, the legendary British sports car manufacturer Lotus decided to invest considerable funds in modernizing its plant in Hethel, Norwich (UK). This also included the final assembly hall. With its extremely innovative, flexible solution, Dürr was awarded the contract for the work. The final assembly process will be carried out using Dürr’s ProFleet system – the first vehicle model to be produced in this way is the brand new, recently presented Lotus Emira.
Highly efficient, very user-friendly, and ensuring a safe working environment
The ProFleet manufactured by CPM is a driverless transport system (automated guided vehicle (AGV) system) specially developed for use in final assembly. Because of its innovative technology, several well-known motor & car manufacturers worldwide have already chosen ProFleet.
Through the entire assembly hall in a stop-and-go process in the car manufacturing
The factory in Hethel has a total of 34 medium-sized AGVs. The AGVs transport the body shells through the entire assembly hall in a stop-and-go process: They stop at a work station for precisely the time necessary to carry out the work in question. They then travel to the next station until they reach the end of the belt, where final tests and quality checks are carried out.
ProFleet AGVs with high accuracy into an optimal position
All ProFleet systems have a natural navigation system. This means that it is possible at any time to change the AGV path and thus also the production layout without any problems. The ProFleet AGVs take over transportation of the car bodies along the final assembly line. The ProFleet AGVs used at Lotus are fitted with bidirectional kinematics and are controlled by an internal fleet management system based on an open software architecture. One of the clear advantages is that it is possible for the factory workers to intervene directly in the operations of the individual AGVs without having to wait for external support. In addition, they are fitted with an electrohydraulic lifting table which makes it possible to lift or lower the car body into the ideal position with maximum precision in car manufacturing. This means that manual activities can be carried out very ergonomically. The highest possible safety standards are thus guaranteed.
“What we particularly liked about Wiferion’s charging solution is its simplicity combined with excellent efficiency and flexibility”, says Marcello Giay Levra, R&D Manager AGV Projects at CPM.
Wireless charging for increased availability
To increase the flexibility and efficiency of the ProFleet systems, CPM relies on Wiferion’s etaLINK inductive charging systems as an integral part of the AGV loop at Lotus. “What we particularly liked about Wiferion’s charging solution is its simplicity combined with excellent efficiency and flexibility”, says Marcello Giay Levra, R&D Manager AGV Projects at CPM. Because the vehicles are charged intermittently using in-process charging and do not need to leave the loop for power to be supplied, they can carry out more jobs per hour (JPH). The productivity of the entire plant rises in comparison with traditional charging concepts. This is because the etaLINK is encapsulated and transfers energy without moving or automated components, and it is maintenance-free.
In addition, to achieve increased capacity, it was installed with the Wireless Charging Protection System (WCPS) made by Pohlcon (formerly PUK) at ground level at neuralgic points in production. As a result, the error susceptibility of the AGVs is further lowered and process reliability rises. In combination with the etaSTORE batteries that are also installed in the vehicles, a ProFleet AGV can be supplied with large quantities of energy in a short time with a very high charging rate of 2C. A further advantage for the system design is the high positioning tolerance of Wiferion’s inductive charging systems.
Stop-and-go and state-of-the-art
Major motor manufacturers are increasingly rethinking traditional production concepts. They are working towards improving efficiency and flexibility and towards reducing the number of production stops – while minimizing production downtimes at the same time. The use of cutting-edge solutions such as ProFleet supports them in this.