Comau’s advanced body welding solutions support Mercedes-Benz’s first localized high-end heavy-duty truck production for the Actros

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The rapid improvement of emission standards and the accelerating growth rate of new infrastructure investments, among other things, are helping drive the sales volume of trucks in China, one of the world’s largest markets for heavy-duty trucks. Given the increasingly concentrated domestic logistics industry, the proportion of large fleets and logistics enterprises is rising. As a result, the market is paying more attention to key issues such as operating efficiency, reliability and vehicle life-cycle values, which means that manufactures are starting to focus on localizing previously imported vehicles.

So when Daimler Trucks AG and Chinese truck manufacturer Foton Motor announced their intention to manufacture and sell Mercedes-Benz trucks for demanding market segments in China, they turned to Comau for help. A longtime supplier of Daimler Trucks in Europe, with close to 50 years of field-proven expertise, Comau was tasked with designing and deploying a fully-automated welding solution for the door area and instrument panel framework as part of the Foton Daimler Actros project.

The Challenge

To produce their first localized heavy-duty truck for the Chinese market, Beijing Foton Daimler Automotive Co., Ltd (BFDA) needed to integrate the Mercedes-Benz global platform and Daimler’s most advanced truck technology. Given that the BFDA plant would be using Daimler’s latest Integra 6 standard to create the automated and flexible production line, Comau’s design and engineering management team would have to quickly master and implement the specifications in record time.

Comau also needed to address the fact that the Actros is a highly modular product with a significant degree of market customization. This would mean that the automated welding set-up had to be flexible enough to handle multiple configurations and/or customized details without affecting the customer’s aggressive cycle time objectives. 

The Solution

As a leading provider of turnkey body shop systems, Comau has the experience and expertise to work with the world’s major OEMs in supporting their advanced automation requirements. By leveraging its proprietary know-how and longstanding relationship with Daimler Europe, Comau built a compact yet scalable welding solution for the door area and sub-assembly shop, which features Industry 4.0 virtual commissioning capabilities and fully complies with the customer’s Integra 6 standard. And because the entire line uses virtual commissioning technology, Comau was able to pre-test and optimize the new line, shorten the actual commissioning time, reduce labor costs and virtually eliminate the potential risks that can occur during post-site commissioning. 

To ensure cycle efficiency and streamline work flows, the line features propriety Comau products, such as RH-Clean, an automatic cleaning roller device that can be used with different types of rollers including the RHEvo standard hemming heads, double rollers and Comau’s standard pre-hemming tools. In addition, some of the robots feature a pre-start function, which increases the flexibility of the line’s cycle time optimization. Finally, the fully-integrated quality-control vision system, which is based on QUISS camera detection and equipped with a kick-in/kick-off process, helps ensure the quality of the doors and its parts after gluing.

The Results

Comau followed a flexible production concept in terms of quantity and production types to ensure the welding line can fully handle the modularity and high degree of market customization of the Actros project. The inherent scalability of the line also means it can easily meet customer’s future production requirements without sacrificing its ability to adapt to complex model management and flexible output management. Most notable, however, is that the solution has both achieved the customer’s target annual production capacity of 60,000 units and its goal of obtaining 100% process automation. The project is currently in the mass production phase.

Mass production is expected to begin in June 2023.

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

Gaetano Cantalupo, Comau Head of Countries Cluster APAC