Comau Provides Welding Robots for Foton Daimler Production of Actros Trucks

Comau's automated welding system helps joint venture produce its first heavy-duty truck in China.


Comau welding robots help produce Foton Daimler's Actros heavy-duty truck.
Comau has built a robotic welding system that includes vision technology and the flexibility to handle complex model management and produce 50,000 trucks in China.

Comau SpA this week said it has built an automated welding system for Beijing Foton Daimler Automotive Co., a joint venture between Daimler Trucks AG and Chinese truck manufacturer Foton Motor. It is supporting Foton Daimler's first localized heavy-duty truck for the Chinese market, the Actros, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz global platform and uses Daimler’s truck technology.

“We are honored to have been selected by Foton Daimler to work on this milestone which paves the way to localizing its first heavy-duty truck. Daimler is a global leader in the automotive industry, not only because of its large volume of business, but also because of its pursuit of technological advancement,” stated Gaetano Cantalupo, head of the Asia-Pacific countries cluster at Comau.

“Winning this project is a recognition of Comau’s capabilities, expansion of its customer base and expansion into new business modules,” he said.

Turin, Italy-based Comau provides industrial automation, collaborative and wearable robotics, autonomous logistics systems, and digital services and products. The unit of automaker Stellantis said it has more than 45 years of experience, more than 4,000 employees, six innovation centers, five digital hubs, and nine manufacturing plants in 13 countries. It has an office in Southfield, Mich.

Welding system to enable flexible manufacturing

Featuring 100% process automation, the new production line is designed to be flexible enough to manage complex models and variable output, said Comau. The company said its welding system will help Beijing Foton Daimler Automotive (BFDA) meet both current and future goals, including target annual production capacity of 50,000 units.

The customer tasked Comau’s engineering team with mastering the Daimler Integra 6 standard to create an automated, flexible, intelligent, and digital welding line for both the door area and the framework of the instrument panel. The robotics supplier said it built a system to ensure cycle efficiency and streamline workflows.

The welding system features proprietary Comau products, such as RH-Clean, an automatic cleaning roller device that can be used with different types of rollers and pre-hemming tools. It also includes a quality-control vision system that uses QUISS camera detection and is equipped with a kick-in/kick-off process to ensure the quality of the parts after gluing.

Foton Daimler Actros

The Actros from Foton Daimler. Source: Comau

Finally, the project uses virtual commissioning technology to help test and optimize the new production line while shortening the actual commissioning time. This reduces labor hours and potential post-site commissioning risks, said Comau.

“Throughout this successful collaboration, the Comau team has played an important role in improving the competitiveness of our products,” said William Sparenberg, head of Mercedes Benz Truck Factory. “We are particularly impressed with their expertise.”

BFDA and Comau said they expect mass production of the high-end Actros truck to start in the second quarter of 2023.

Comau partners with Rockwell, retools Alfa Romeo production

Earlier this month, Comau said it has continued integrating its robots with software and components from Rockwell Automation Inc. The partners also offer one programmable logic controller (PLC) for both of their technologies. They claimed this will helping manufacturers of all sizes adopt automation without the need for additional robot programming skills.

Comau and Rockwell demonstrated their collaboration with Dairy Conveyor Corp. demonstrated a high-speed palletizing system using Comau's NJ-60 an PAL-180 robots and a GuardLogix 5580 controller at the Automation Fair in Chicago.

“The integration of Comau’s robots with such a widely used unified PLC environment has allowed us to develop a powerful palletizing and depalletizing solution for the food industry that can be easily deployed at our customer sites, helping improve their productivity while reducing infrastructure costs,” explained Horia Saulean, DCC Automation.

Systems integrator Aagard Group also showed a flexible palletizing application using Comau's Racer 5-0.63 robot and Rockwell's ITRAK Intelligent Conveyance System for picking and packing sporting goods.

“Comau’s robot technology leverages the unified robotics solution from Rockwell Automation to allow our machine-builder customers to better support their end-user customers,” said Mike Hermann, vice president of industrial sales at Van Meter, a distribution partner. “The integration gives them the ability to program their entire machine in one programming environment and address their customers’ challenges in a simplified way.”

In addition, Comau retooled a body-in-white (BIW) production line for Alfa Romeo's Tonale SUV that includes its ComauFlex suspended robots. This setup allows Alfa Romeo to change or modify a specific vehicle model by adjusting the robot tooling, not the arrangement of the robots themselves.

Comau's system is also designed to enable the automaker to introduce new models in the future for a fraction of the initial expenditure. It features 468 welding robots, 148 of which are completely new, and 320 are taken from existing lines.

“In supporting the Alfa Romeo brand in their product expansion, Comau has fully leveraged its longstanding experience in automation and smart manufacturing to deliver an unprecedented level of flexibility,” said Andrew Lloyd, chief of engineering at Comau.

“This innovative approach to implementing brand-new technologies and retooling existing lines and equipment is a direct result of our commitment to offer increasingly scalable and sustainable solutions, helping our customers better meet their objectives today as well as tomorrow,” he said.

This ROKStudios session focuses on the collaboration between Rockwell Automation and Comau, and how their solutions around Unified Robot Control create simplified, more accessible production environments and greater scalability, enabling the producer to integrate and innovate with robotics.

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Comau welding robots help produce Foton Daimler's Actros heavy-duty truck.

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