On the fast lane to sustainability: ABB’s cutting-edge automation solution for BJEV’s latest EV manufacturing facility

On the fast lane to sustainability: ABB’s cutting-edge automation solution for BJEV’s latest EV manufacturing facility

ABB’s EV manufacturing solution is helping BJEV move closer than ever to its goal of producing 350,000 EVs by this year

The challenge  
As one of China’s largest electric car manufacturers, BAIC needed to increase the efficiency and flexibility of its new facility in Qingdao, China in order to meet its goal of being able to manufacture 250,000 cars annually.  

The solution  
Over 160 ABB robots have been installed at various parts of the factory floor, including the press shop, painting line and body-in-white station that together have boosted efficiency and productivity and created a more flexible environment for BAIC future expansion plans.  

The application  
Palletizing, loading and unloading, welding and painting applications by dedicated ABB robots.  

The global automotive industry is changing at an unprecedented rate. The growing recognition of the role of clean transportation in reducing greenhouse gases, ensuring energy security and the availability of a new market, have pushed auto OEMs to invest both time and money in e-mobility. China, the world’s largest auto market, is leading this change with about 1.3 million electric vehicles (EVs) sold in 2018, which accounted for four per cent of the country’s overall car sales.  

One of the major players that has contributed to the growth of China’s EV market is the Beijing Electric Vehicle Company (BJEV). Established in 2009 by Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. Ltd (BAIC). BJEV has delivered nearly 340,000 vehicles, selling more EVs in China than any other company for six consecutive years. Behind this success is a comprehensive electric vehicle manufacturing solution at BJEV’s factory in Qingdao, where 250,000 cars can be produced annually using more than 160 ABB robots.   

Innovating press automation with small robots  

Each of the two press lines producing BJEV’s EC3 and EX3 car models are made up of ten ABB robots that depalletize, load, transfer and unload metal sheets for the car body. At the front of the depalletizing station, ABB developed a magnetic separation solution composed of four IRB 1200 small robots for the first time. This innovative solution has many advantages over the traditional sheet separation method:  

  • High efficiency – As a fully automatic setup, the entire press shop can be run without any manual intervention, which ensures consistent and high-quality production  
  • Space savings – The ABB press automation robot fleet, made up of robots as small as 35m2, takes up 25 percent less space than the traditional setup.  
  • High separation quality – With a failure rate that is about 70 percent lower than traditional separation methods, the ABB press automation set-up helps BJEV save on future maintenance costs.  
  • Increased flexibility – Controlled by ABB small robots, the magnetic arms can reach any angle and position, which makes them suitable for separating different types of materials. Instead of the 14 or 15 sets of magnetic arms used in traditional separation process, only four sets are required in the ABB set-up, thereby saving floor space in the depalletizing station. 

Additionally, each press line is equipped with three ABB 7-axis linear robots which can operate without the need to rotate the robot arms.  

“In traditional industries, the press shop is equipped with 6-axis robots that need to roll and turn to do their work. But with these three robots running linear, we are able to boost productivity by 40 percent,” said Chen Wang, the PAS Plant Manager at BJEV’s Qingdao facility.  

Easy integration and guaranteed quality at the body-in-white shop  

ABB has provided more than 100 robots as well as professional spot welding and dispensing software packages for BJEV’s body-in-white workshop. As ABB offers a professional standard interface, it is easy to integrate the robots into the welding equipment quickly and shorten the time needed for interface debugging. The simplified connection helps save a significant amount of workload and time for the customer. 

At BJEV’s body-in-white workshop, ABB robots are mainly used for spot welding, arc welding, dispensing and handling the vehicle bodies. Thanks to the robots, the accuracy and consistency of welding can be guaranteed, and productivity has improved. The solution has also created a safer factory environment for human workers who earlier welded the car body manually. Instead of laboring in the body-in-white workshop, human workers now perform more fulfilling and safe work such as operating the robots.   

Beyond the two workshops, ABB also supplied 18 robots for BJEV’s painting workshop to perform exterior painting of the vehicle body, including intermediate coat, base color, clear color and gluing of the vehicle bottom, which enhances the productivity and quality and improves the working environment for the workers. 

Boosting efficiency with the right service at the Qingdao Application Center 

To support the 400,000 robots it has installed in 53 countries since 1974, ABB has built a global network of regional application centers to provide timely service to customers of different industries and various markets. ABB Robotics operates the Qingdao Application Center to support customers in the region and in Shandong and North China with fast, accurate and comprehensive services. The Center is currently training BJEV employees in robotics and helping the company build a cutting-edge robot operation team. In the future, the Qingdao Application Center will provide better and thorough services for BJEV in project management, on-site support and after-sales services. 

BJEV has ambitious plans for its Qingdao facility. The company expects to achieve an annual production capacity of 350,000 vehicles and an output value of RMB 35 billion this year. With about RMB 100 billion investment, the Qingdao facility will grow to be BAIC Group's largest manufacturing base of new energy vehicles in China and will also include a complete industrial chain involving the three core components of new energy vehicles - batteries, motors and electric controls - and related equipment. ABB Robotics is committed to helping BJEV realize this goal.  

ABB offers four comprehensive solutions for the manufacture of electric vehicles including press automating, welding, painting and powertrain assembly. ABB has also developed a series of advanced tailored solutions for new processes of electric vehicle manufacturing, ranging from aluminum body riveting, battery assembly to dispensing, which enables electric vehicle manufacturers to improve production flexibility and promote the development of electric vehicle industry. 


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