In 2020 the iconic British sports car brand Lotus allocated significant investments to upgrade its plant in Hethel near Norwich, UK including the final assembly building.
With the development of an extremely innovative and flexible solution, Dürr was able to win the tender to develop and install the equipment for assembly of cars in Lotus’ new final assembly shop. It will take place on Dürr’s ProFleet system and start with the all-new and recently unveiled Lotus Emira sports car.
Produced by CPM, ProFleet is an automated guided vehicle (AGV) that has been specially designed for final assembly shops. Due to its innovative technology, ProFleet has already been selected by major car manufacturers worldwide.
Final assembly at Dürr
For the final assembly business, Dürr has set up a global strategy: NEXT.assembly. The strategy integrates all of Dürr’s technology and consulting spectrum in a one-stop-shop solution aimed at enabling manufacturers to assemble vehicles as efficiently as possible. The building blocks for this are conveyor, gluing, marriage, filling, and testing technology as well as digital solutions for intelligent control of overall production. Dürr offers the portfolio as a modular system of individual components or as a complete solution.
High efficiency, excellent usability and a safe working environment
The Hethel plant is equipped with a total number of 34 medium-sized AGVs, each being provided with natural navigation. This means that it is possible to change the AGV path and consequently also the production layout at any time without major impacts. ProFleet AGVs will be used for trim and final operations. The ProFleet at Lotus are provided with bi-directional kinematics and controlled by an in-house fleet management system based on an open software architecture. A clear advantage is the possibility for the plant's operational staff to intervene directly with each AGV’s operations without necessarily having to wait for external support. The AGVs are also equipped with an electrohydraulic lifting table which allows for raising or lowering the car body to an optimal position with high accuracy. It means manual operations can be carried out with the utmost respect for ergonomics, ensuring the highest safety standards.
Stop-and-go and state-of-the-art
Major car manufacturers are rethinking traditional production line concepts. They are constantly striving for higher efficiency and more flexibility as well as the reduction of the number of production stops while keeping production losses to a minimum. Using state-of-the-art solutions such as ProFleet supports that goal. At the Lotus plant the AGVs load the car bodies at the beginning of the assembly line and transport them along the entire assembly shop in stop-and-go mode: stopping at a working station for the time required to perform the necessary operations and then continuing to the next one until the end of the line where tests and quality checks are performed.
Dürr technology for the end of line
At the end of line Lotus also relies on Dürr’s testing expertise. The scope of supply included the wheel alignment stand x-wheel which uses non-contact 3D measuring technology to measure and adjust the chassis geometry within angular minutes. Furthermore, the wheel aligner was combined with the x-light headlamp aiming system and the ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) calibration system x-DASalign which is used to calibrate the FRM (Front Radar Module) and the FLC (Forward Looking Camera). The end of line is completed with the x-road testing system which performs final tests regarding roll mode, brake operation and ABS.