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Robotics Industry News

PIA Automation Canada wins first Hydroforming Project

PIA Automation Inc.

PIA secures the assembly for hydroforming camshafts for a Canadian automotive parts supplier.

As the cost of refining for gasoline increases, the automotive car and truck manufactures are changing from gas-powered to electric cars. Of the engines that are still petroleum powered there is a major push to reduce the weight of the vehicle, in any form possible including weight savings inside the engine. One such example of this is the manufacturing of the camshaft in a combustion engine.

A typical camshaft is made from heat treatable cast iron and is annealed to room temperature, once this is done the entire camshaft is machined to a very high tolerance. One new camshaft assembly process is the use of hydroforming where hydraulic pressure is applied inside of a tube. There are camshaft lobe blanks held in position by servo-controlled tooling. A second-high pressure pipe is lowered through the tube, once the high pressure is activated the tube expands against the camshaft lobe (on the outside) and there by is secured to the camshaft tube itself. This process is called plastic deformation thereby securing the cam lobe to the shaft.

“One major pickup truck manufacturer has used hydroforming camshafts in their engines as one of the weight saving measures to increase fuel mileage. A large Canadian automotive parts supplier manufactures hydroform camshafts and PIA Canada recently secured the assembly of this new technology”, says Jeff Voll, Sales Manager at PIA Canada.

The assembly made by PIA will produce 480,000 camshafts a year with a cycle time of 32.4 seconds. The line will have eight stations in total and including the fully automated turnkey hydroforming camshaft assembly cell, which includes lobe filter, hopper with cleated belt conveyor, belt conveyer and a vibratory table with vision system for lobe flipping and picking as well as tube loading system with tube passed to robot automatically. Due to the hydroforming process cycle time, there will be two high pressure hydroforming systems on the line. The system will include three robots for material handling, laser marker with a 2D barcode reader, and an outlet conveyor with a probe changing system. As a mechanical component of an internal combustion engine, a camshaft is important to the overall performance of the engine. North American Sales of automotive camshafts are growing, as the demand for pick-up trucks is not letting up. This project provided PIA with further requests for quotation for similar projects and is a promising new opportunity into a growing market.

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