Vacuum lamination - intelligently automated. Kiefel fulfills automotive industry requirements
20 Nov 2018
The cost pressure in the automotive industry is continuously rising and customers expect armrests, door panels or dashboards to look excellent and feel pleasant, from the middle class segment and up. Vacuum laminating is the process of choice - but automated, cost-effective and with low-personnel production please! Kiefel GmbH from Freilassing takes on these challenges. The company's response: the completely new Tailored-Blank-Laminating (TBL) technology, automation included. Kiefel also offers a solution for existing systems: intelligent retrofitting.
The TBL vacuum laminating system operates fully automatically, without any operating staff. The unique feature: The system uses tailored blanks for each component, from which the name is derived. Tailored blanks are precision cut film blanks.
This means that very little laminating film is wasted. The precision blanks and carrier parts come from upstream processes. A specially developed servomotor-driven gripper system, capable of 3D movement, positions the film on the carrier part without any separation. The tool closes, the vacuum lamination process and the precision film trimming for the subsequent edge-folding process step begins. After completing their task in the laminating station, robots which are part of the laminating machine transfer the component to the downstream stations, e.g. edge-folding or punching. As a result, automation is virtually cost-free and the machine runs completely unmanned.
With the help of TBL technology, Kiefel has applied "tailored blank" precision cut blanks to reduce material consumption and thus film costs by around 40 percent compared to conventional vacuum lamination processes. Simultaneously the degree of film separation and thereby the graining separation, the essential quality feature in vacuum lamination, is significantly reduced to only 10% to 15% whilst the feel is evenly excellent across the entire component surface. This means that the new TBL vacuum lamination process comes very close to the degree of separation offered by the more expensive in-mold-graining laminating technology - and even surpasses it in terms of consistent soft-touch!
The automated, highly flexible, modular system concept integrates the subsequent steps to produce a fully laminated edge-folded part at the end of the line. The high level of automation eliminates the need for system operating staff. The completely redesigned system technology reduces the footprint to ca. 50% of conventional systems.
Need automation? Retrofit!
Kiefel addresses the increasing demand for automation solutions for existing, conventional vacuum laminating systems - including in-mold graining laminating technology. The company in Freilassing has developed a concept for all vacuum lamination process steps, right through to edge-folding and punching. Two robots work as a team. Robot one precisely places the carrier parts in the vacuum lamination system. After the lamination process, the gripper removes the laminated component and transfers it to the colleague, robot two. This takes over the component on the B-side and places it in the correct position in the edge-folding machine.
Numerous companies have already retrofitted this automation module and can confirm a return on investment within 18 months. Why? They need two fewer operators per shift. If necessary, the construction permits manual operation as a backup at any time.