SOUTHFIELD, MI – In 2020, the iconic British sports car brand Lotus allocated funds to upgrade its plant in Hethel, near Norwich, UK, including its final assembly building. The brand has entrusted Italian Dürr subsidiary CPM to create an open and innovative production line for its renovated assembly. The renovation will include the use of ProFleet AGVs designed for final assembly shops.

Dürr's design of a highly innovative and flexible solution enabled it to win the bid to develop and install the equipment for the assembly of cars in Lotus's new final assembly shop. It will be implemented on Dürr’s ProFleet system and start with the all-new and recently unveiled Lotus Emira sports car. Produced by CPM, ProFleet is an automated guided vehicle (AGV) designed for final assembly shops. Due to its innovative technology, major car manufacturers worldwide have already selected ProFleet.

Final Assembly at Dürr

For the final assembly business, Dürr has set up a global strategy: NEXT.assembly. This approach integrates Dürr's technology and consulting capabilities into a one-stop-shop solution to enable manufacturers to assemble vehicles as efficiently as possible. The building blocks for this are conveyors, gluing, marriage, filling, testing technology and digital solutions for intelligent control of overall production. Dürr offers this portfolio as a modular system of individual components or as a complete solution.

High Efficiency, Excellent Usability and a Safe Working Environment

The Hethel plant is equipped with 34 medium-sized AGVs with natural navigation. This allows staff to change the AGV path and production layout without significant impact. The ProFleet AGVs at Lotus, used for trim and final operations, are provided with bi-directional kinematics and controlled by an in-house fleet management system based on open software architecture. A clear advantage is the possibility for the plant's operational staff to intervene directly with each AGV's operations without necessarily having to wait for external support. The AGVs are also equipped with an electrohydraulic lifting table that raises or lowers the car bodies to an optimal position with high accuracy. It means manual operations can be carried out with the utmost respect for ergonomics, ensuring the highest safety standards.

Stop-and-Go and State-of-the-Art

Major car manufacturers are rethinking traditional production line concepts. They are constantly striving for higher efficiency, more flexibility and a reduction in the number of production stops while keeping production losses to a minimum. Using state-of-the-art solutions such as ProFleet supports this goal.

At the Lotus plant, the AGVs load the car bodies at the beginning of the assembly line and transport them through the entire assembly shop in stop-and-go mode. Each AGV stops at a working station for the time required to perform the necessary operations and then continues to the end of line, where tests and quality checks are performed.

Dürr Technology for the End of Line

Lotus relies on Dürr's testing expertise at the end of line. The scope of supply included the wheel alignment stand x-wheel, which uses non-contact 3D measuring technology to measure and adjust the chassis geometry within angular minutes. The wheel aligner, combined with the x-light headlamp aiming system and the ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) calibration system x-DASalign, is used to calibrate the FRM (front radar module) and the FLC (forward looking camera). The end of line is completed with the x-road testing system, which performs final tests for roll mode, brake operation and ABS.

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