SYN] Magazine
#2 | 2019

“Unity is our Answer to global Platform Strategies“

Interview with Anthony Salisbury, Product Portfolio Manager for Henrob self-pierce riveting equipment

What are currently the biggest challenges in self-pierce riveting in modern automobile manufacturing?

"Many of our challenges are a direct result of the demands being placed on our OEMs from their customers – people like you and I who buy their cars. As consumers we want to use less fossil fuel and we want electrical vehicles with greater ranges. Both of these desires require lighter car bodies. Over 10% of fuel or electricity is spent simply carrying the car’s body – so saving body weight has tangible customer benefits in fuel use or range. The primary strategy for lightweighting by OEMs is to change the materials they use for body panels. Aluminum is ideal for many body and frame applications, and modern higher strength steel panels can offer crash protection while also being thinner and lighter. 

Car manufacturers must find the best method for joining these different panels together. The physical interlock created from the fast, cold, mechanical rivet pressing of SPR forms a solid, reliable joint. Its strength and consistency is why we fill a demand for almost 5 billion rivets a year. Another cost-saving tactic increasingly being adopted by OEMs is the use of vehicle platform strategies. Again, as customers we have changed our buying approaches. We want more diversity in our cars with options like SUVs, coupes, MPVs and crossover vehicles, which means more variations across each small, medium and large segment. OEMs are opting to design across a common platform to which they can apply this diversity over the top. Communizing a large part of the body like this allows OEMs to satisfy our call for multiple vehicle types, whilst drastically reducing engineering and investment costs. They blueprint these platforms across global locations to and from Europe, China, and North America, making build localization possible in their biggest markets. The challenge for SPR companies is to be involved at the platform design stage, offer equipment flexible enough to work across varying vehicle lines, and be globally compatible to follow the blueprinting requirement."

What role does Industry 4.0 play here?

"Our OEM customers are data hungry – they want to collect and use the reams of data supplied by their high-tech equipment to help them improve their quality, increase their efficiency and reduce their costs. Industry 4.0 is not just a buzz term; it is substantial and objective benefits realised by technology. These results make it a key product strategy for Atlas Copco and IAS."

How does Unity solve these challenges?

"The type of rivet needed to make a joint is wholly dependent on the materials being joined. Hardness, thickness and riveting direction are all integral factors in designing a riveted joint. New materials mean new rivet types. Harder materials need more rigid rivets that can both pierce and flare, without stressing the equipment. The recently launched Henrob BG-rivet is the most capable rivet in the market for fixing aluminum to ultra-high-strength steels. To satisfy the requirements of vehicle platforms, Unity comes with a globally compatible controls architecture, so a customer can blueprint this equipment in all regions. Press a couple of buttons on the HMI, and the screen language changes from English to Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, French, or German. Same information, locally provided. Our data collection and analysis tools are vastly improved with this structure. We’ve enlisted Stockholm’s software design department to provide us with an Atlas Copco data collector that can integrate our product’s data output closer to our parent company, taking advantage of Atlas Copco’s market-leading competence in this field."

What are the main advantages of Unity?

"The main advantage of Unity over previous Henrob products is the global thinking behind the architecture – customers get the same product at each location with only minor local adaption. It means Atlas Copco Customer Centers worldwide need a single support arrangement. It’s the first Henrob product to fully adopt the Atlas Copco branding in both physical and software interface. A clear illustration of this is how Unity now uses the Atlas Copco ToolsNet as our interface to our Data Driven Service provision. Customers now seamlessly see the same system on their screen for checking logs or quality history on their SPR tools as they do on their tightening tools. ToolsNet is incredibly powerful and popular, and it’s great we’re now becoming party to that. Unity is the go–forward architecture for new developments, whether it’s cutting-edge rivet types or equipment innovations, and is future-proofed to cope with our customers’ next challenges."

Learn more about Unity