Initial situation

VDL Belgium is one of the 87 companies within the VDL Group. They are known for high-quality fabrications for the automotive industry. VDL Belgium supplies parts to their sister divisions and directly the the automove Tier1’s and OEM. In 2000 the VDL Belgium plant burnt to the ground. After the fire they rebuilt and initially set their focus on exhaust systems for Scania and Volvo. Today, they operate produce parts for many industries but automotive remains as the focus. The company employs a workforce of 100 in a 16,000 square metre plant: they are the largest VDL company outside of Holland.

Effect

VDL Belgium makes increasingly more complex exhaust parts starting from the customer's 3D models. Performing three-dimensional laser jobs on bent tubular assemblies with the LT-FREE system is not a problem.

The solution

For major customers the essential aspects of production are cost, quality and delivery times. LT-FREE has changed the production process making it more efficient. In some cases, it is possible to save up to 50% on costs compared to the old methods.

The flexibility of being able to position nearly any type of part by using a robots is a key fature of of the LT-FREE. Add in a fiber laser and two independent work stations and you get a system that can do loading and unloading cycles withing the cutting sequence. This provides a hugh benefit in regards to cycle time and quality. LT-FREE has also drastically reduced tooling times. A part which previously needed seven different operations now be made in just three: cutting to length, bending and laser trimming after bending. Add to this ‘ease use’ which allow the operators to quickly master the system. One example is a part that normally required six operations and three days to complete. With the LTFree the entire job was completed in just five hours.

The LT-FREE doubles as a sort of process quality control system. The customer has very stringent tolerances that can be difficult to meet with traditional manual process steps. With the LT-FREE system if the part is bent accurately the LT-FREE it will certainly be able to finish it to the customer’s tolerences.

The benefits

Compared to traditional technologies LT-FREE ensures more speed, better quality, cleaner parts and lower part fixturing costs. All this is achieved with less labor and less relieance on highly skilled operators due to the LTFree’s ease of use.

Technical aspects

Laser versatility and flexibility can be exploited to process complex parts efficiently, accurately and with high quality results. The use of two robots and two workstations makes it possible to perform all loading and unloading operations in the background.