Moving towards an increasingly intelligent automotive industry was the main objective of the DIGI4AUT Joint Research Unit (UMI), developed by the Aimen technology center and the Copo Group, which has just concluded with very important results for saving time, material and costs in the production of foams for components in the automotive industry. The initiative had the support of the Xunta de Galicia through the Galician Innovation Agency (Gain). The project budget reached 4,080,000 euros, which was co-financed by the FEDER Galicia 2014-2020 funds.
After four years of work, great results were achieved in the implementation of an advanced system for the excess material of the foams, which saves time, material and costs. In addition, solutions were obtained through the application of process monitoring and control systems with artificial vision and data analytics. The project represents an important advance towards a new advanced factory model 4.0, capable of addressing in a flexible and efficient way the production of foams with higher performance for the automotive sector.
The team that developed the project focused on the technologies that connect the physical world with the digital one, based on four pillars: connectivity, digitization, reconfigurability and cognitive and intelligent factory. “The results of the project are already effective and currently in the Copo group we are already working with some of the results obtained, such as the control of the mold to avoid excesses in the pieces or the application of mold release wax in a more homogeneous way in the mold”, explains Sergio Rodríguez, manager of Cetec (Copo Group Technological Center).
For his part, Yago Lapido, researcher at the Robotics and Control Unit at Aimen, points out that in the last months of the project progress was made in aspects such as the elimination of excess material from the parts, the identification of the variables that influence manufacturing of the same and in their traceability. In this way, a unitary code was incorporated for each part manufactured, which collects all the critical parameters of the process during the manufacture of the part. In addition, a manufacturing process management system (MES) was developed.
Lapido highlights that during the project, both Aimen and Grupo Copo worked as a single team. “From AIMEN we approached the knowledge of certain innovative technologies within the concept of Industry 4.0, while Copo approached its experience in the manufacturing processes of automotive seats. Thanks to this joint work, it was possible to implement and develop technologies that previously did not exist in the group’s plants”, Lapido concludes.
The collaboration between Grupo COPO and AIMEN is not new as they have been carrying out R&D projects side by side for a decade
Sergio Rodríguez considers that the project represents an important step in the digital transformation of the Copo group plants, complying with industry 4.0 standards. “We advance in technologies related to smart manufacturing, improving quality and reducing costs. Therefore, we can say that Copo has already become a benchmark for a digital factory and an example to follow for the automotive sector towards factory 4.0”, adds Rodríguez.
Both entities have already established two other UMIs (NEWFOAM and HIGHPIPE), with the support of the Xunta de Galicia and co-financing of the Feder Galicia 2014-2020 operational program, focused on the development of new materials and technologies for the manufacture of screened products for the automotive industry. “We are working on the definition of new projects that bring new knowledge and benefits to both Aimen and Copo group”, concludes Lapido.