Robots Coat Headlamp Lenses
Stäubli Robotics Posted 04/26/2013Hi-tech for a clear view
Protective coatings on modern plastic headlamp lenses are considered an absolute necessity nowadays. Pioneering automation technology facilitates the application of transparent protective layers that are only a few microns thick.
GfO Gesellschaft für Oberflächentechnik AG is Europe’s leading system provider of high-quality surface finishes utilizing scratch-resistant coatings and PVD metallization. The company specializes in technical and optical surface coatings, and it coats plastic moldings with metals, oxides and transparent lacquers.
Approximately 75 percent of customers are in the automotive industry. Virtually all prominent OEMs and suppliers use the coating process developed by the company. Gerd Leichner, Managing Director at GfO: “With Sicralan, for example, we make plastics able to stand up to intensive use in vehicle interiors and exteriors. Thanks to this product, headlights, indicator and tail lights, side windows, roof modules, body panels, display panels, remote keys and many more components get the appropriate coating to suit virtually any requirement.”
Benchmark in theory and practice
A quick look at the plant used to apply transparent anti-fog coatings on plastic headlamp covers makes it clear that GfO has not only mastered the development of pioneering coating technologies but is also adept in their application. The Sicralan AF coating reliably prevents the formation of condensation droplets on the inner surface of the lens covers, making this technology indispensable for all reputable manufacturers.
Because of the extremely thin layers applied and the need for a high quality surface finish, coating must take place under clean room conditions. In the coating plant, two Stäubli RX160 painting robots work in a highly coordinated manner within a very confined space. At a fixed position, one of the two painting robots takes the component from the transfer system together with its holding jig and deposits it at a cleaning station. The second robot picks up the cleaned lens cover from the cleaning station and, following a precisely defined path, passes it in front of a paint spray.
The RX160 paint robot pivots the lens covers, tracing an elaborate pattern. “The precision with which the Stäubli robot does its work results in an optimum outcome, even when applying coatings at thicknesses of at most six microns,” says Gerd Leichner.
Gerd Leichner, Managing Director at GfO AG.
Thanks to robotic automation, the plant is flexible and deals very efficiently with around 30 different variants without the need for retooling. What is striking is the small footprint of the plant, which is due in no small measure to the compactness of the six-axis robot. “The positive experience with these robots and the support from Stäubli Bayreuth means that Stäubli machines will be our robots of choice for future applications,” adds Gerd Leichner in conclusion.