RLW Navigator is a three year,
€3.9M, project funded by the European Commission under the
ICT-Factories of the Future programme. The project has
fourteen partners and began in January 2012.
The goal of the project is to
develop an engineering platform for an emerging joining technology
from the automotive industry, Remote Laser Welding (RLW), that will
enable the exploitation of this technology and ultimately support
other joining processes. The RLW Navigator will accomplish this by
integrating universal simulation engine and experimental
models to precisely model, configure, optimise and control process
variation, production throughput and cost in multistage assembly
processes. The RLW Navigator will integrate manufacturing system
design information (CAD/CAM) with statistical analysis/variation
simulation thus helping to support the early introduction of new
processes and fundamentally change these introductions from current
trial-and-error to systematic math-based system and station
configuration, optimisation and control.
The promise of Remote Laser Welding
joining technology in vehicle manufacturing is due to three main
characteristics: non-contact, single side joining, and a high power
beam capable of creating a joint in fractions of a second. Benefits
for typical, sheet metal assembly, automotive applications include
reduced processing time (50-75%), decreased factory-floor footprint
(50%), faster processing speeds (5 times faster than spot welding
for an equivalent strength weld), reduced environmental impact
through energy use reduction (60%), and providing a flexible
process base for future model introduction or product change.
The advantages of RLW provide
exceptional opportunities for rapid and significant
improvements in the European automotive manufacturing sector
with the potential to ensure its competitive edge in the world
markets while leading the way on the environmental front.