We’re working hard at the moment to open a (fully) automated factory in early 2013. In addition to composite tippers and trailers, ComposiTTransport will also produce container tanks, loaders, containers, tanks, inland waterway vessels, salt dispersers, etc. for and with a number of cooperating parties. This factory is unique since such an automated factory doesn’t exist at all on this scale.
To produce in series in a fully automated environment, production technologies will be used that follow each other sequentially. Modern industrial robots play an important role in the execution of repetitive tasks in mass production, mainly of consumer goods. Robots like these perform their tasks cheaply and accurately over a longer period. European production industries are moving increasingly toward high value added production that must be “lean” and flexibly implemented to survive in a competitive market. This trend can be recognized, for example, in the presence of production cells, rapid product exchange systems or the introduction of “one-off production” to reach these objectives. This process is increasingly achieved by the introduction of automation/mechanization, software integration, sensing, communication and collaboration among systems. In the design and use of industrial robots, however, this shift has not yet begun. Industrial robots must be equipped with an even higher intelligence, communication level, mutual (collaborative) cooperation, multifaceted (multitasking) deployment and an effortless takeover of processes to allow single units or small series to be created (interactively) and intelligently in a production environment. Considering the size of the factory, a number of subsystems will be designed for testing the developed tools, protocols and software.
In the automated ComposiTTransport factory, a new technology will be introduced that starts by wrapping a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic plastic tape that has been welded to a form using a local heat source (laser light). In this manner, impregnating the fibers and hardening the thermal hardeners is no longer necessary. The technique can be applied both on a roll (so that you can make plastic tubing; this is called “tape winding”) and on an object with a more irregular shape (this is called “tape placement”). This new technique is based on the use of thermoplastic materials, plastics that can be repeatedly softened by heating and thus be made malleable. This is in contrast to what is customary — namely, thermal hardeners. These are formed once in a chemical process, after which the form used for the product can no longer be changed. The industrial robot that carries the tape rolling installation can move from point A to point B very precisely. The robot should move to every possible position and angle at every possible speed.