There are few more demanding production environments than on automotive assembly lines. Often running 24/7, downtime has to be avoided at all costs. A stoppage on one machine in one part of the plant can bring production to a halt across the whole site. The consequent costs can be staggering, while the loss of production and disruption to schedules may take days or weeks to recover from.
Therefore the need for reliable plant and machinery on vehicle manufacturing plants is paramount, and it follows that every component in those machines must be able to offer guaranteed performance and long term reliability that is world class.
The purpose of the assembly line is to take the basic bodies and add to them all the parts and accessories, from seats and doors to driver controls, trim, boot and bonnet. This requires a myriad of separate operations that have to be co-ordinated and choreographed, making sure that everything is colour matched, that the model specification of each vehicle is correct in terms of accessories, trim etc. Further no part can ever be damaged or even marked. All of this has to be completed to a schedule that is accurate to the second - and that repeats itself constantly with little or no room for error, delay or stoppage.
The vehicle bodies are moved along the assembly line from station to station on slat conveyors, hanging from special suspension fixtures in overhead conveyors or mounted on carts driven by friction rollers with the assembly workers riding alongside. Similarly accessories, parts and subassemblies to be mounted onto the vehicle bodies may be delivered to the appropriate workstation on separate feeder conveyors that run at a speed carefully synchronised to the main assembly conveyor.
Tsubaki has a long history of supplying conveyor and drive components for automotive assembly lines that have provided trouble-free operation for the full duration of their specified operating life. Tsubaki drive chain, for instance, is used in conveyors, lifts, hoists and many other machines. It is available in a number of different ranges, including roller chain, heavy duty chain and leaf chain, each suited to different duties and different working conditions.
Tsubaki bearing roller conveyor chain features cylindrical bearings embedded within the rollers to minimise rolling resistance and optimise power consumption, especially over long conveying distances. The cylindrical bearings also prevent stick slipping from occurring at low speeds, thus ensuring smooth movement and accurate positioning of the vehicle bodies along the assembly lines.
Tsubaki Liftmasters are commonly found in automotive plants to transfer assembled heavy components, such as engines, transmissions, suspensions and vehicle bodies to the next process. The Tsubaki Liftmaster, is a lifter with a screw-type support beam and internal guide, these lifters are installed simply by bolting them into place, their low profile design obviating the need to dig pits in which to locate them.
Another configuration of lifter made by Tsubaki is the Zip Chain Actuator, a high speed device that can raise components to the exact level required for rapid yet precise fixing to the vehicle body. Taking away the need for personnel to do exact positioning increases work efficiency and productivity. It also improving workers’ posture, and improves ease of maintenance.
Tsubaki Power Cylinders are used to for many duties on automotive assembly lines, including opening and closing the suspension tongs that hold the vehicle bodies on overhead conveyors. These are electrically powered, mitigating risk of leaking oil from hydraulic cylinders dripping onto the vehicles. Installation is a simple matter of connecting the three phase source, rather than having to install hydraulic piping.
Quality is built into Tsubaki chains and equipment from the very start, as the company always chooses quality materials from the best suppliers and uses advanced manufacturing techniques. The chains are designed for minimised wear at the contact points between the rollers and bushes and reduced elongation (by as much as 50%) compared to alternative products. These properties design out unexpected breakages and failures so that unplanned down time is avoided. They also extend the working life so that the replacement frequency is reduced, which again leads to less downtime and reduced total lifetime costs.