Land Rover gets help to install panoramic roofs

  • 11-Sep-2011 05:34 EDT
Land Rover8-11 evoque-roof Expert Exmac.jpg

The panoramic roof insertion system for the Land Rover Evoque includes vision technology.

A significant option for Land Rover’s new Range Rover Evoque compact SUV is a large, fixed panoramic glass sunroof. But the installation of a panoramic roof can create production difficulties and add costs.

Land Rover builds the Evoque in three- and five-door forms, as well as the Freelander 2, at the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Halewood plant in the U.K. Creation of a new, automated-installation panoramic roof cell was an essential part of production planning.

The specialist companies Exmac Automation and Expert Tooling already had experience with JLR panoramic roof installation (for the XJ sedan), and they took responsibility for the Land Rovers at Halewood. Expert Tooling specializes in robotics, precision tooling, and gluing systems. Exmac specializes in conveying, transfer systems, automation, and control. Jaguar’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) unit was responsible for the original panoramic concept.

Accommodating six vehicle platens, the Exmac conveyor system has three powered roller beds (PRBs) and an accumulator conveyor. The middle roller bed of the conveyor also has a clamping, lifting, and centralizing mechanism to put the car in the optimum position for roof insertion.

It was necessary to cut into an existing assembly line to accommodate the panoramic roofs. The roofs are unloaded from stillages into the special cell. The roof is rotated 90° to enable an operator to fit its antenna before being turned back to its original position and then loaded onto an Exmac accumulating conveyor.

A vehicle body enters the cell from the pre-trim twin-strand conveyor onto one of the PRBs at process speed and is verified. A “roof-on” unload station within the cell is also verified using a bar-code reader. When the roof and body are confirmed, the body is carried on the fast-transfer PRB to the cell PRB, where the body transport skid is centralized, lifted off the rollers, and clamped. The robot’s gripper adjusts to suit the correct roof model and collects it from the accumulating conveyor platen, where it is held in place via vacuum pads.

The platen then returns to a lower level, allowing the next roof to enter the cell. Before entering the cell, the glass roof is preheated to prolong the active life of the glue (1 min) to assist in the location process. The robot then positions the roof for adhesive application. When the process is completed, the robot moves the body into a position that enables the cell’s camera system to confirm the positions of the holes used to locate the roof.

In the event of a negative signal, the roof is moved to a standby position for manual inspection. If the application is subsequently accepted manually, the process continues; if rejected, it is trolleyed out of the cell.

Commenting on the use of a camera system, Expert’s Terry Davidson, said: “The absence of sharp body features on the flowing lines of the XJ made it difficult for a vision system to operate effectively, but it is the preferred option for the Land Rovers as the roof is located using pins fitted in location holes in the roof. The vision system is designed to measure the roof aperture, locate the holes, and adjust the programming of the robot to enable it to fit the roof based on the measurements.”

The offset positions identified by the vision system are fed to the robot, enabling it to move to the correct roof-fit position. The robot then lowers the roof pins into the body location holes and releases the roof. Load units apply a 5-s squeeze to the pre-set roof location points. The load units then retract, and the robot returns to a “pounce” position above the roof platen to await the next unit.

When the roof installation is completed, the skid-mounted body is released and lowered onto the conveying system for fast transfer out of the cell.

The process takes 85 s.

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