How can the world ensure food supplies for its ever-increasing population in the future? The agricultural sector must supply growing quantities of cereals, fodder crops and other food products. And it must do so under objectives that are in part contradictory – on the one side cost-effective, on the other ecological. These goals can only be achieved with modern agricultural machinery, because only modern technology can ensure good yields at reasonable costs thanks to precise sowing, targeted fertilization, and optimum plant protection.
AGCO is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of tractors, combines and other agricultural machinery sold under well-known brands such as Fendt and Massey Ferguson. The Fendt plant in Asbach-Bäumenheim, Bavaria, produces driver cabins for tractors and self-propelled harvesting and crop protection machines. Nearly 1,200 employees manufacture, weld, paint and assemble cabins of various designs at this facility. Fendt cabs for tractor assembly are delivered Just-In-Time and Just-In-Sequence, i.e. the parts are built in the same sequence as they are needed on the assembly line at the Fendt plant in nearby Marktoberdorf.
The essential part of a driver’s cabin is a structure made of bent and welded tubes. The tubes are automatically supplied from a storage system and fed to a laser cutter. The tubes are then passed on to bending machines, loaded and unloaded automatically by robots. As the last step before welding, the tubes are cut to their final contour by a 3D laser; this is also done automatically. After this, the tubes are welded together to form the cabin frames. The latest welding technologies and innovative welding robots are used for this. Thanks to precise cutting and modern welding processes, it is possible to manufacture ergonomic cabins with curved windscreens.
AGCO’s engineering department is responsible for process optimization and procurement of manufacturing equipment. They wanted to optimize robot sequences and make improvements to individual cells in the tube processing workflow. The tubes are processed by a total of six interlinked systems with a high degree of automation. Previously, to carry out such investigations and evaluate possible improvements, production had to be stopped, which resulted in high costs. Therefore, the engineering department looked for a better alternative.
It was decided to model the rather complex production equipment and workflow as a digital twin. The digital twin improves processes, optimizes the production cells and simulates the improved workflows. The digital twin also provides a basis for discussion for future optimizations, in case further activities in a cell should be carried out by the robot.
AGCO’s manufacturing engineers found the solution in the 3D factory simulation software from Finnish solution provider Visual Components. Visual Components simulation can be used to design and optimize complete manufacturing systems, including offline programming of robots. The software simulates the entire manufacturing process and the smooth cooperation between robots, laser cutting and tube bending machines. The simulation allows non-productive times to be minimized and issues such as robot accessibility and collision avoidance to be investigated.