ABB’s FCHA system bound for Ford’s Essex plant

Winner of the automaker’s gold Global Powertrain Manufacturing Excellence award

December 29, 2015   by PLANT STAFF

ABB's flexible cylinder head assembly (FCHA) system.  Photo: Ford

ABB’s flexible cylinder head assembly (FCHA) system.
Photo: Ford

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — ABB Robotics has been recognized for its technical innovation of the jointly-developed flexible cylinder head assembly (FCHA) system that’s now being deployed by the Ford Motor Co. to engine plants, including its facility in Essex, Ont.

The Swedish robotics manufacturer received the Detroit automaker’s Global Powertrain Manufacturing Excellence award for its FCHA technology at a global supplier summit in Dearborn, Mich., in October.

The system is a joint development effort between Ford Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering and ABB Robotics Powertrain Robot Systems.

Its design allows multiple cylinder head architectures to be assembled simultaneously, without changeovers. The modular and flexible platform based on parallel processing, minimizes, and in many instances eliminating, the use of dedicated stations. This incorporates redundancy for critical operations, and allows production volumes to be easily adjusted as required.

A complete FCHA system features 15 ABB robots comprised of four different medium and high payload 6-axis models. Certain modules within the system can be integrated into existing, traditional cylinder head assembly stations, such as plug installation, sealer dispensing, valve train assembly and testing.

Additional features include:

• Force and distance monitoring for valve assembly and key up processes prevents damage of delicate components;

• Integrated key up checks at point of assembly;

• Loctite/sealer dispensing with a single nozzle for any size holes; an

• Integrated quality checks throughout the assembly process.

ABB began developing the FCHA technology in 2008 for a formal design competition that Ford initiated to develop a more flexible and cost effective system at its engine manufacturing facilities for the assembly of cylinder heads.

After reviewing designs from six manufacturers, Ford selected two for additional collaboration. Following a second development phase and review in 2010, ABB was selected as a sole development partner.

For the last five years the ABB R&D team at the Auburn Hills facility has collaborated with the Ford Powertrain Advanced Manufacturing Engineering group to refine the technology. In 2014, ABB won a competitive bid to deliver four complete FCHA systems.

The first will be used at the Ford Cleveland engine plant, with additional systems soon bound for Essex; Lima, Ohio; and Chihuahua, Mexico.

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