Conceptual design of a fixture-based reconfigurable spot welding system
Sequeira, Michael Allan
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This thesis details the conceptual design of a fixture-based, reconfigurable, automated spot welding system aimed at manufacturing various sub-assemblies of circuit breakers. The welding operations are currently done using manual welding equipment, making this stage of the assembly process highly labour intensive. A range of product models and variants are assembled in quantities requiring frequent change-overs. Low-cost automation within a developing country’s manufacturing industry, more specifically within the Republic of South Africa, is the target context. The chosen design restriction, of incorporating a part fixturing design approach, distinguishes this research from F. S. D. Dymond’s work, who addressed the same problem while restricted to a fixtureless assembly approach. A conceptual layout design was developed to address part feeding, manipulation, transportation, fixturing and welding requirements, for an entire breaker model range. A simulation model for three possible layouts of the selected conceptual design provided a means to investigate each layout’s ability to tolerate and balance variation in production requirements, and to establish objective comparative performance data. This showed that the optimal configuration consists of four single loop layout systems. The thesis concludes that the final concept possesses the flexibility to produce the primary product range. Reconfiguration for production beyond this range is assisted by the modular nature of the layout. Ultimately, a reconfigurable design should focus on a properly selected base of core product ranges, providing an expandable and reusable system. The system can be supported by manual assembly stations which handle highly variant, incompatible product ranges.