Up to 7,000 components must be put together for a custom-designed car to work perfectly. Completely pre-assembled or delivered as separate components, they are welded, glued and bolted together into subassemblies in body manufacture. The Ford plant in Cologne achieves this task using distance sensors of the DT50 product family from SICK.
SICK’s distance sensors are highly versatile in function and application, preventing for instance, rear ending in automated conveyor systems by ensuring the proper distance of load carriers from each other. Fitted with a robot arm, they prevent collisions of delicate grippers with material inserted improperly.
The distance sensors also measure the distances between the gripper and the work piece, triggering an alarm when the values fall below a certain level.
The DT50 distance sensors feature ranges of up to 10 metres and excellent resolution, which allows their installation into robot work and processing cells even outside of the actual safety zone. The compact sensors check for presence of borings and openings or the insertion of bolts and sheet metal components into manual pick-and-place stations such as rotary tables.
Combined with safety light curtains, the distance sensors also monitor the automatic feeding and removal of material in the work cells. As muting sensors, they enable the safety devices of the robot work cells from above for material transport, thus automatically and reliably differentiating every component conveyed in from humans.
Two distance sensors at the Ford plant in Cologne are used for level measurement at pick-and-place stations, replacing the 22 inductive sensors attached to the side of the station used earlier to complete the task. The two DT50 distance sensors monitor the filling level from above and transmit the measured analogue value, or rather the height to the controller.
With the replacement, the plant has been able to save the cost of wiring 20 sensors and the accompanying PLC inputs, while facilitating integration into the PLC program, and increasing reliability due to fewer components installed.
Listing out the advantages, Uwe Radke, Maintenance Specialist in the body assembly shop at Ford in Cologne comments that the DT50 distance sensors are easy to operate with a high-quality LCD display while the version featuring an analogue output gives them the flexibility of PLC programming. The robust metal housing additionally meets their tough requirements.