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The latest international order by the special works department of the Reggio Emilia based company, the end-of-line robotic system is the state of the art technology that Fiat will use in Goiana, the great new Brazilian factory, in 2015 where the Jeep renegade will be assembled.

Mino de Rigo

Inside the factory: the assembling of a car, at the end of the production line, is complete.

A robot hooks it and drags it on a dedicated line. Just a few quick movements on the rollers and the vehicle is aligned with the machine’s symmetric axis, and then the routine checks start.

These are the ‘end-of-line’ checks starting from the wheel alignment. With surgical precision and timing, the ballet of cameras and sensors begins and, from a safe distance, as required by a touchless system, alignments are made. Immediately, robotic systems go into action, communicating with cameras and the car’s electronic control unit, working on the adjusting nuts to set the camber and toe.

Starting from the rear axle, with minimal human labour, we move to the front axle. In view of the overall system’s cost, implementing a higher automation systems such as a fully automatic one, might seem feasible. The choice is dictated, really, by the relationship between investment and output.

The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group has opted for the semi-automatic version for the two end-of-line equipment designed by SIMPESFAIP - HPA, the Reggio Emilia company of the Nexion Group, ready to be added to the assembly lines of the new plant under construction in Goiana, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.


Big Deal with FIAT Brasil

This project relates to the largest private building site in that whole South American country: a $ 4 billion investment for a factory that covers an area of ​​14 million square meters, that will employ 4 thousand people, and produce 120 cars per hour, that is 250 thousand every year.

According to plans, fully operational by the first half of 2015 primarily to manufacture the Jeep Renegade, the new compact SUV just presented at the Geneva Motor Show. For the company in Prato di Correggio (Reggio Emilia), another order written in bold letters in the register of the special works department, whose design, development and hi-tech manufacturing is undoubtedly the flagship of the entire production range.

The technical and commercial coordinator of SIMPESFAIP - HPA Stefano Lasagni says : " The ‘end-of- line’ is a family of products established over 20 years ago , representing specialized high-tech ."  A team of a dozen specialists work there, creating tailor-made projects, sewn to the specific needs of the automotive manufacturer. " Followed by an all-round support, from the preliminary analysis to the drafting of all specifications at first, and after being awarded the contract, from the  project to managing its construction, finally arriving to the maintenance program ." This one in the new Brazilian factory , the last stage of a three-year commitment, is only the latest in a long series of installations for clients such as Argentine Ford , Volkswagen, Iveco, along with Chinese companies like Cherry , SAIC and Great Wall as well as the site of Bulgarian Litex Motors.


Customized hi-tech facilities

Moreover, the special works team of the Nexion group’s subsidiary has also installed automatic fluid filling machines for fluids found in every car, from engine to brake fluid, washer fluid and coolant. "These operations - says Lasagni - take place with the vehicle on the assembly line and can cover up to ten meters at a time. Furthermore, in the case of brake fluids, difficulties arise by the need to interact with the ABS control unit. "

But, perhaps, the greatest challenge is facing international competitors whose size is many times over that of the Reggio Emilia based firm . "Specialization - said the manager of HPA - is our strength”.

When the contract is aimed at supplying machines dedicated to specific customer requirements, we have good cards to play: the price / hi-tech ratio of our ‘end-of-line’  is often decisive . And then, with carefully tailored projects, we accompany the client from an idea, to commissioning  the system without ever leaving the job until it’s completed. We have a very high customer retention rate as several past Brazilian customers are a clear example. " After receiving our offer, Fiat evaluated through repeated audit, the working group, and verified first-hand the design and production potential. " In the factory, moreover, we cannot allow any bottleneck as the whole operation of wheel alignment, in the new factory in Goiana, must be carried out strictly within three minutes. “Quality and safety of the finished product are  further features not to be neglected, for this reason  appropriate control routine have been introduced to especially ensure the tightening of the adjusting nuts, in compliance with design specifications and quality.


Full robotic testing

"The system - adds Lasagni - detects when the tightening torque reaches the preset values, which is then maintained by the robot to a well-defined rotation angle: so you have the assurance that the operations have been performed, and the combination of these data with the measurements of toe and camber will show  the correctness of the adjustments. " In the final stage all the information is sent to a server and consolidated in a statistical database , allowing it to perform a thorough quality control process. Possible errors of the machine are then excluded by performing accurate controls of measuring capacity (Cm - Cmk ) . After the ‘end-of-line’, from where the car arrives automatically, Fiat has provided the electric and electronic controls, needed to follow the integrated bench test. " Here is a new player in our equipment , consisting of a road simulator that runs on objective tests that were once conducted by manufacturers on test tracks. In addition to testing the vehicle in different driving conditions, it allows you to control how the gearbox works at different speeds, the brakes (including ABS, ESP , ASR, etc. . ) and the accuracy of the speedometer. " A test bench that is more sophisticated, fast and powerful than your traditional equipment, needing just 3 minutes to complete test cycle , compared to the usual 20 . " In the terms of contract - says Lasagni - we guarantee 98% reliability of the system. It is a strict requirement, considering the stress they are subjected to working 365 days a year, and yet obliged to avoid costly factory downtime. But it is above all an asset that contributes to our success on the international market. "



If the custom made ‘end-of-line’ installations are the crown jewel of their range of products, diagnostic and testing equipment with HPA brand constitutes the bulk of SIMPESFAIP’s turnover both in Italy and abroad. The Reggio Emilia company founded in 1995 following the merger of Modena’s Faip, already active in the manufacturing of electromechanical equipment and Simpes Turin, specialized in electronic equipment, has always had a strong export vocation. More than 85 % of it’s production is in fact exported abroad, despite the difficulties that beset Italian firms on the international market, relying on acquired skills and technology for the automotive sector whose geography has definitely changed. With the current center of gravity in the emerging markets of China, 22 million of annually registered cars, making it the world leader, Brazil, Argentina and Eastern European countries. Next up for SIMPESFAIP - HPA , which continues to broaden its scope, are Russia, South Africa and India.

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