RLW Navigator is a three year, €3.9M, project funded by the European Commission under the ICT-Factories of the Future programme. The project has fourteen partners and began in January 2012.
The goal of the project is to develop an engineering platform for an emerging joining technology from the automotive industry, Remote Laser Welding (RLW), that will enable the exploitation of this technology and ultimately support other joining processes. The RLW Navigator will accomplish this by integrating universal simulation engine and experimental
models to precisely model, configure, optimise and control process variation, production throughput and cost in multistage assembly processes. The RLW Navigator will integrate manufacturing system design information (CAD/CAM) with statistical analysis/variation simulation thus helping to support the early introduction of new processes and fundamentally change these introductions from current trial-and-error to systematic math-based system and station configuration, optimisation and control.
The promise of Remote Laser Welding joining technology in vehicle manufacturing is due to three main characteristics: non-contact, single side joining, and a high power beam capable of creating a joint in fractions of a second. Benefits for typical, sheet metal assembly, automotive applications include reduced processing time (50-75%), decreased factory-floor footprint (50%), faster processing speeds (5 times faster than spot welding for an equivalent strength weld), reduced environmental impact through energy use reduction (60%), and providing a flexible process base for future model introduction or product change.
The advantages of RLW provide exceptional opportunities for rapid and significant improvements in the European automotive manufacturing sector with the potential to ensure its competitive edge in the world markets while leading the way on the environmental front.