HeiDetect Wheel Robot

A robot ensures perfect rims

As part of the HEITEC group, HEITEC PTS is primarily active in the robotics and automation industry. Take, for example, the “HeiDetect Wheel Robot” fully automatic wheel test facility that inspects cast aluminum rims for defects.

Complex system

The system comprises a computed tomography scanner and a robot arm that picks up the rims, rotates them in the CT scanner, and replaces them. The data is evaluated using special software programmed by the Fraunhofer Development Center for X-ray Technology (EZRT). The wheel x-ray robot is used, for example, in the automotive industry and integrated into the production line. Dimensions of the HDWR (HeiDetect Wheel Robot): Volume approx. 35 cubic meters, weight 12 tons.

HeiMAX OPS supports assembly

The assembly of this type of system is extremely complex. So it’s no wonder that a solution should be found that’s as error-free and precise as its subsequent operation. In 2017, Michael Messerschmidt, head of the Software Business Field at HEITEC, received the following product inquiry: Can you modify your HeiMAX maintenance assistant so that it helps us assemble the machine? “Of course we accepted the challenge, because there was no problem in terms of program architecture,” recalls Messerschmidt. Several months later, HeiMAX OPS was developed.

Successful pilot project

OPS stands for “operations.” Felix Richter, Head of the Manufacturing and Assembly Department and Project Manager for x-ray technology at HEITEC PTS GmbH, worked on the pilot project with the assembly assistant. “In the fall, we assembled the first machine using the HeiMAX OPS software.” After four weeks, the system was finished and Messerschmidt received the first progress reports on the assistant tool. “A few changes had to be made: For example, it made more sense to arrange the assembly steps in a different order. But on the whole, the group was satisfied with the software,” concludes the software expert.

Documentation by touch

What are the benefits of digital assembly? It eliminates the endless piles of paper assembly instructions as well as the task of manually documenting construction. HeiMAX OPS does this via touch display. Assembly errors can be easily documented to prevent their repetition, as can suggestions for optimizing the process.

For managers as well, digitally traceable assembly has measurable advantages. At any time, they can check online to see how far the process has progressed. They can efficiently assign their employees jobs, appropriately delegate tasks, and realistically plan the entire process. This pays off. Instead of being lost, knowledge and experience are stored by the system and further processed. The program learns along with its users.

HeiMAX OPS also entered series production

At the start of 2018, the assistance tool would prove itself on a larger scale. A manufacturer of aluminum wheels who’d been a HEITEC customer for many years wanted to use the HeiMAX OPS assistance tool to assemble multiple wheel robots in parallel.

First the necessary components were produced and then, in early January, transported to the customer’s site in Baden-Württemberg where the assembly would take place. All assembly instructions in the form of Excel files and the necessary CAD files were loaded on the tablet PC, which was then used for the step-by-step assembly.

A large amount of data was compactly sorted in an extremely small space, clearly arranged, and made available bit by bit. That’s what HeiMAX OPS is all about.

Michael Messerschmidt

Business Development, Software

Synchronous work enabled

Up to 50 people can work on assembly simultaneously. “HeiMAX OPS specifies the exact assembly sequence so that the foreman can clearly determine the personnel who should be sent to the machine and when,” explains Messerschmidt. First of all, the mechanics can assemble the components using the precise instructions on the tablet PC. Mounting plate installed on XEye? They click “In Ordnung” (Okay) and the tablet displays the next step. Later on, the electricians install the electric cables and circuits and IT staff upload the necessary information to the hardware.

Overview and filter functions

Installers work together either in parallel or sequentially. The system automatically synchronizes the information on all the tablets as soon as it’s entered so that each member of the team is always up to date. However, it’s also possible for employees to filter the display to view only their own steps.

Optimally processed

The data entered is then automatically processed by the software. Report, statistics, and defect lists can be generated anytime with a single click. The assembly supervisor can view the documentation, verify items that are still pending, and decide what needs to be done next. Remove unnecessary inspection point? Optimize the order of the assembly steps? Ask the mechanic why the screw wasn’t lubricated, initiate troubleshooting ... the next software release contains all the improvements. Michael Friess, Managing Director of HEITEC PTS GmbH, is thrilled. “The assistance software has also proven to be outstanding for assembly,” says Friess.

From pilot project to production

Soon the machines mounted in parallel will be finished. After the pilot project has been evaluated and analyzed, the wheel robots (HDWRs) will be disassembled and installed directly in the aluminum wheel manufacturer’s production line. At that point, service and maintenance will no longer be a concern: They’ll be handled by HeiMAX OPS’s older brothers …

Monitoring assembly in China online

Meanwhile, the HDWRs are being manufactured under license in Asia. “HeiMAX OPS is also being used there,” explains Messerschmidt. “Our IT personnel here in Germany can monitor the progress of colleagues in China online at any time and promptly offer them support if problems arise.”

HeiMAX also used for machine acceptance tests

There are now plans to generate a third tool from the HeiMAX assistant. After the machine or plant has been successfully built, this tool will facilitate the acceptance test. “That’s still being done in the conventional way,” explains Messerschmidt. The requirements are listed on the contractual documents and the manufacturer and customer go over the list item by item, checking off each one individually. Defect documentation and to-do lists are also generated manually and dates are scheduled to take care of them. After all this, the final acceptance test can be performed. “Our assistance tool can do this much more efficiently,” says Messerschmidt.