Ford, Saarlouis

Extension of the suspension track system with VIPA engineering

There are not many brands that combine daily practicality and sportiness as strongly as Ford. The scope of automobiles ranges from the useful transit, the compact car, the family limousine right up to the motor sports. The Ford Capri was one of the first models which was produced at the location in Saarlouis, which was founded in1970. At that time the region was still dominated by mining and steel industry. Today the automobile industry is one of the most important industrial sectors – and this is mainly due to Ford.  More than 13 million Ford models have been produced here up to now. So this factory is one of the most efficient and productive automobile factories in Europe.

Flexible production of up to five different models

The factory in Saarlouis is considered to be particularly flexible as up to five different models are produced per production line The individual sites are regularly examined very carefully at Ford in order to provide consistent efficiency. Therefore, new models are also regularly produced in Saarlouis –for example the soon the C-MAX, the C-MAX Compact and C-Max Grand versions. To adapt the production accordingly Ford uses the know-how of companies such as RESA System GmbH for example, specialists for automation engineering who develop and implement complete installations with control engineering, delivery systems and industrial robots according to customer requirements. Among others, an existing electrical suspension track system was affected by the upcoming type integration of the C-MAX versions C-MAX Compact and C-MAX Grand. In this area of the body-shell work many single parts that later form the body, are conveyed and transported to each production line via this system where the elements were clamped and welded, so that finally the complete body-shell, the so called body is measured and ready for further processing.

Powerful alternative sought after

The most difficult task was the implementation of an additional Ident system. So far, the production data has been written on data mediums of the suspension in the electrical suspension track so that the following processing stations could identify which type had to be welded next. After detailed testing together with Ford, it was decided to deploy a RF ident system on UHF basis which makes the single parts identifiable for the production line through a RFID data medium. Therefore the plant components, which are equipped with this system, require a PROFINET connection. But the existing plant components that should initially remain unaffected as possible, work via PROFIBUS. So a CPU was required that includes both interfaces.


A solution exactly suitable with VIPA components

Oliver Biwer, Key Account and project manager of RESA Systems found this in the controllers of the 300 series of VIPA. “We had already applied the products in other projects and other areas and were always very satisfied”, he said. Recently we equipped a large facility at SAS Automotive Systems Supplier Park of Ford together. „The STEP7 compatibility of the VIPA controllers particularly impressed us“, said Oliver Biwer. Therefore it was decided to deploy the CPU 315PN, which offers further advantages: all interfaces required, such as PROFIBUS, MPI, Ethernet and PROFINET, are already included in the VIPA CPU 315PN, whereas with other producers you have to buy them in addition to the CPUs. Also the memory is considerably larger so that a larger CPU is not required.

Four CPUs were bought as a pilot installation for the extension of the electrical suspension track and additional accessories as power supply and profile rails. The existing I/O cards and the cross-system communication via PROFIBUS FDL connection remained unchanged.

"Due to the performance of the CPUs in most of the cases the 300 series is sufficient, where before you had to use larger components”, said Oliver Biwer. “Because of the conversion to the compact VIPA high performance devices the space reduction of 20%, which is required by the customers, can easily be complied with.

This project is definitely an important mile stone for upcoming joint projects at Ford in Saarlouis/Germany.