Revolutionising assembly lines by applying practical learning to mechanical engineering design
Ben Auty has been with Leidos for over 10 years, starting off as an apprentice in mechanical engineering with a heavy focus on design. Throughout his career so far, he has been interested in understanding how things work and tried to look at things differently to find a better way of working or refining an already established process to improve efficiency. Auty has worked through every department within engineering, specialising in automotive assembly and has returned to his apprentice roots in engineering design, currently working as a Mechanical Design Engineer here at Leidos.
Working through all departments and closely with customers completing projects at their manufacturing sites has enabled Auty to have a deeper understanding of what customers require, the challenges they face, and know just how important it is to select the correct materials to benefit their operations on the production line, saving valuable time and improving overall productivity.
Within every industry, advancements in technology continue to lead the way, and vehicle manufacturing is no different with the introduction of digital industrialisation, robotics, and the ongoing increase in electric vehicle manufacturing with improved battery technology, regulatory pressure, and expanding charging infrastructure to meet customer demand.
Auty, along with a team, quickly realised with the evolution of electric vehicle manufacturing there was a need for improvements within general assembly, and in particular, a focus on tooling design to help vehicle manufacturers to continue to mass produce vehicle parts, at a low cost. One of the biggest challenges customers face is being able to change production to different models and configurations of vehicles accurately, quickly, and seamlessly.
When the idea of an Adaptive Tooling System (ATS) was born, Auty’s team took this concept of being able to quickly reconfigure tooling to build different car models with the potential combination of robotics and operators working together to make the most efficient and repeatable process possible, allowing manufacturers to have fluidity with options to change their workflow to keep up with customer demand.
From the initial idea, the team was determined to bring this concept to life, knowing it would benefit supporting their customers to revolutionise the automotive manufacturing industry. Auty worked closely with the team to collaborate and bounce around ideas pulling together designed parts and assemblies to test, modify, and perfect until the finished prototype was finalised, bringing in help from other areas of the business to support the addition of robotics.
The dedication of the team to bring this concept to life was endless, the team at Leidos are passionate about what they do, with the ability to create change and help customers at the heart of this project. Leidos’ ATS allows manufacturers to have full flexibility with their tooling system. The ATS pallets act as a blank canvas, featuring a series of pre-drilled holes that can accommodate any tooling that is needed to build a particular vehicle. Manufacturers can continually change the tooling required to build further vehicle models on the same pallet and production line.
The ATS can be configured for different vehicle models and accurately assemble vehicle parts with little to no distribution to the production line. In addition, the system has been designed to constantly monitor tooling wear and tear and provide vital information, making it easier to avoid failures and keep the tooling in the best condition to assemble a high-volume production line. The system also reduces wastage as the tooling pallet can be re-used for all vehicle models. Not only this, but the introduction of combining operators and robotics working side by side together to eliminate and human error, enhance the speed of reconfiguration, keeping up with customer and market demand, provide a more efficient and effect way of manufacturing on the assembly line.
The team at Leidos have proven our ATS works, from initial concept, design, test and modifying, to working with several leading automotive manufacturers to implement prototypes onto their production lines. Auty and the team are extremely proud of their achievements and continue to investigate not only how this can and has improved the efficient of vehicle manufacturing, but how this system can be rolled out to other industries, with this adaptive nature and multipurpose design.
NOTE: A patent application for the Leidos Adaptive Tooling System (ATS) has been filed and is currently in progress.