Audi Brussels: Dual-track electrified monorail system

  • Factory work floor with orange-painted, dual-track electrified monorail system behind a curve

On the new assembly line, the Audi e-tron handles the curve with ease

Quiet, safe, and always at just the right speed: At Audi in Brussels, sophisticated MAXOLUTION® technology permits particularly flexible and ergonomic assembly of the new Audi e-tron electric vehicle fleet. Smooth, silent motion has taken the place of rigid cycle timing and rattling chain drives. This is made possible by perfect synchronization of all AGV frames and maximum safety.

The project at a glance

Audi company logo (four interlocked rings) with Audi Brussels caption
  • Customer: AUDI BRUSSELS S.A./N.V.
  • Plant manufacturer: LogSystems Fördertechnik und Automatisierungs-GmbH & Co. KG, Schopfheim, Germany
  • Location: Brussels (Belgium)
  • Industry: Automotive industry
  • Application: Assembly line for the new, fully electric Audi e-tron
Aerial photo of the Audi plant in Brussels
Audi plant in Brussels

Further information on Audi Brussels:

  • Employees (2017): 2,792 (Audi in total: over 90,000 in 2017)
  • Production floor area: 540,000 square meters
  • 1948: Founded under the name "Anciens Etablissements D’Ieteren Frères"
  • 1948: Construction of the production plant in Vorst, a district of Brussels
  • From 1949: Production of Studebaker, later of VW Beetle, VW Packard, VW Ghia, and Porsche 356
  • 1970: Acquired by Volkswagen AG, renamed Volkswagen Brussel N.V. - Bruxelles S.A.
  • From 1970: Production of VW Passat, VW Golf, VW Iltis, VW Golf Rallye, Seat Toledo, Seat Leon, VW Lupo, Audi A3 and VW Polo
  • 2007: Acquired by Audi AG and renamed Audi Brussels
  • 2010: Production of Audi A1
  • 2018: Production of Audi e-tron
Dual-track electrified monorail system with Audi A1
Audi A1 in production
  • Modernization of the assembly lines for a new electric vehicle fleet parallel to running production of the A1
  • Transition period of mixed production of both A1 and e-tron vehicles
  • Each transport unit is to have its own controller and be networked with the others
  • Creation of an ergonomic assembly line with maximum flexibility
  • Very high safety standards
  • Flexible cycle timing and windows
  • No rattling chain drives
  • Monitoring of state parameters of each transport unit
  • Embedded into the superordinate Siemens plant control system
  • Electric vehicle Audi e-tron with completely new technology requires new plant technology
  • Electric van weighs 2.9 tons (for comparison: A1 weighs 1.18 tons)
  • The production line incorporates tricky curved sections
Orange dual-track electrified monorail system, drive technology and EMS wheel
Dual-track electrified monorail system with drive technology

Modernization of the assembly lines during running production using individual MAXOLUTION® system solutions

  • Dual-track electrified monorail system for heavy loads on the assembly line:
    • 96 vehicles over a length of 1,100 meters, carrier payload of 3,200 kilograms for each vehicle
    • 2 travel drives for each unit: one heavy-duty electrified monorail system gearmotor for each track, with electronic motors (HK60 DRC2), efficiency class IE4, frequency inverter integrated into the motor
    • Curved track: the two widely separated travel drives are coupled using a function called "electronic differential"
    • 2 lifting drives on each unit: one R107 DRN132 helical gearmotor for each track, efficiency class IE3
    • One MOVIPRO® decentralized drive, positioning and application controller for each EMS vehicle
    • Positioning using a DataMatrix barcode system (PXV)
    • MOVISAFE® HM31 safety controller for each EMS vehicle
    • Safety functions: Safe Positioning, Safely Limited Speed (SLS), Safe Direction of Movement (SDI), Safely Limited Position, (SLP), Safe Stop 1 (SS1), Safe Torque Off (STO), Safe Distance Monitoring, switching on/off of the battery charging device, monitoring of the brake test
    • All modules and performance features are scalable, quick to start up, and can be combined with the simulation and startup software MOVIVISION®.
  • Single-track electrified monorail systems for the Cockpit area of the plant (length 330 meters, 43 carriers)
  • Single-track electrified monorail systems for the Doors area of the plant (length 390 meters, 40 carriers)
  • Electrified monorails move as necessary at any given moment, always in synchrony with the skillets on the floor and the lifting stations
  • Each transport unit knows its position in the plant at all times and reports its state parameters continuously to the stationary segment controllers, which exchange data among themselves and pass on the position information to the plant control system
Factory work floor with orange-painted, dual-track electrified monorail system behind a curve
Dual-track electrified monorail system with curved track

Assembly process in a single, smooth motion:

  • During the refitting phase for the e-tron electric vehicle, production of the A1 can continue unimpaired
  • Safe and quick startup phase thanks to virtual startup that allowed all interfaces and functions to be tested in advance
  • Low noise level due to the absence of rattling chain drives
  • Flexible cycle times and windows
  • No mechanical spacers between the carriers – minimum permissible distance maintained by safety functions
  • Electrified monorail system perfectly synchronized with lifting stations and skillets
  • The carriers move autonomously at speeds between one and 70 meters per minute
  • In the assembly area, where the plant workers are, the speed is limited to 15 meters per minute
  • Curved sections also usable for work stations
  • Higher flexibility and better ergonomics in plant workers' tasks
  • Refitting completed within just four weeks
  • Future-proof production

Workplace safety maintained between the suspended loads, even in curved sections

Smooth motion, safe positioning, and a curved track like none ever seen in the industry: At Audi in Brussels, every step in the production of the e-tron electric car is perfectly synchronized – without rigid cycle times. Watch our video to find out for yourself what drives Audi's new assembly line and those responsible for it – and why SEW‑EURODRIVE is the ideal partner for the project.

Quote: Dominik Adam, project supervisor at LogSystems, the main contractor for the Audi Brussels project

A curved track like none ever seen in the industry

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Quote: Tom Timmermann, project and technical manager at Audi Brussels

SEW‑EURODRIVE helped us greatly.

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Quote: Andreas Cremer, general secretary at Audi Brussels

We're not trying to be "fast followers" – we want to be trend setters.

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Quote: Patrick Danau, plant manager at Audi Brussels

Any downtime costs money and must be avoided. That's why we chose SEW‑EURODRIVE.

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Impressions of the project

The project in detail

The future of mobility in the factory of the future

Audi A1 in an orange-painted carrier of the electrified monorail system
Dual-track electrified monorail system with Audi A1

In the south-west of Brussels in September of 2018, everything was ready: The e-tron, the first completely electric vehicle of the Audi brand, went into mass production. At that moment, the famous car manufacturer with four interlocking rings in its logo heralded a new era – not just for the in-topic of electric mobility, but also for production. In one of the 19 districts of Brussels, called Forest in French and Vorst in Dutch, modernization of its assembly line brought forth the factory of the future.

Rigid cycle times? They're a thing of the past at Audi Brussels. Just like the electric vehicle promises a new future for mobility on the streets, our solution for mobility on the assembly line brings a new future to production: The entire process is a single smooth motion thanks to MAXOLUTION technology with smart control and networking from SEW‑EURODRIVE.

Depending on the requirements of the moment, the electrified monorail system carriers speed up or slow down in moving from point to point, acting in perfect harmony with the lifting stations and the skillets on the ground. The heavy car bodies quietly settle in front of the factory workers. No rattling chain drives punish the ears.

The challenge of implementing this exceedingly flexible and ergonomic production line couldn't have been greater. After all, the refitting of the assembly line had to be completed in parallel with the running production of the Audi A1.

During a transition period, the plant operated in mixed mode, assembling the two vehicle types alongside each other. Once production of the smaller A1 was moved to Martorell in Spain, Brussels became the main location for Audi's production of electric vehicles.

No rigid cycle times – smooth, uninterrupted motion

Orange-painted carrier of the electrified monorail system
Carrier of the dual-track electrified monorail system

Rigid timing windows make a production line inflexible. Chain drives such as those still widely used in the industry generate an uncomfortable level of noise. Neither of these has a place anymore in Audi's plant in Brussels. There, Audi intends not only to herald a new era of mobility with its new fleet of electric vehicles but also to set new benchmarks for state-of-the-art, smart, networked production. "We're not trying to be 'fast followers' – we want to be trend setters," emphasizes Andreas Cremer, general secretary of Audi Brussels.

The objective of the refit was to create an extremely flexible, ergonomic production line of a kind unknown in the industry. The result is like a flawlessly executed choreography: The entire assembly process is now a single smooth motion, with the 96 carriers of the electrified monorail system in perfect concert with the lifting stations and the skillets on the floor.

No more high noise level: Instead, the heavy car bodies settle quietly and gently in front of the assembly workers. Protected by state-of-the-art safety technology, those workers are ideally integrated into the harmonious interplay of the line.

Smart communications partitioned into segments are what it's all about: At any given moment, every mobile transport unit and each carrier of the EMS knows exactly where it is in the plant and continually reports its state parameters to the stationary segment controllers. These controllers pass on the data to the superordinate PLCs. The PLCs can be used to dynamically adjust the running characteristics.

All this is made possible by intelligent MAXOLUTION® technology from SEW‑EURODRIVE. Together with the plant manufacturer and general contractor LogSystems from Schopfheim, Germany, our team from Bruchsal planned, installed and started up the system solution.

Heavy loads on dual tracks safe in the curves

Orange-painted carrier of the electrified monorail system behind a curve
Perfect dual-track cornering

The usual solution for electrified monorail systems on assembly lines in the automotive industry involves a single track. But at 2.9 tons, the new electric SUV from Audi is well over twice as heavy as the 1.18-ton Audi A1. This vehicle, relatively lightweight in comparison, was previously produced in Brussels.

The ceiling of the assembly hall was not high enough to transport such heavy suspended loads. Thus the electrified monorail system for heavy loads is designed with a dual track.

The technical challenge of this lay in the fact that the carriers also had to pass around curves on the dual track. This was no easy task: Due to the wide spacing of the two tracks, the travel drive motors have to compensate for the differing lengths of the curved inner and outer tracks.

Using two gearmotors equipped with DRC.. electronic motors, and thanks to the "Electronic Differential" software function, the differing speeds on the inner and outer curves are perfectly coordinated. This perfect non-standard solution was created by the engineers of the MAXOLUTION® team in close cooperation with project partners on-site.

Safety and ergonomics first

Orange-painted carrier of the electrified monorail system with travel drive, control technology, and safety technology
EMS travel drive with control and safety technology

A special attribute of the flexible, smooth-moving assembly line at Audi Brussels is that no mechanical spacers between the carriers are necessary. Each carrier maintains a safe distance from its neighbors by virtue of unambiguous, safe position monitoring implemented using a DataMatrix barcode reader (PXV).

To this end, each of the 96 carriers is equipped with a controller from the MOVIPRO®series as well as a safety controller of the type MOVISAFE® HM31B. The HM31B uses the position data from the barcode reader to generate safety functions such as:

  • SLS (Safe Limited Speed – Safe monitoring of the speed of the lifting axis)
  • SLP (Safe Limited Position - switches off the lifting axis and loading device depending on the X position),
  • SDI (Safe Direction of the movements of the lifting axis)
  • and the innovative Safe Distance Monitoring (SDM®).

In 2016, the MAXOLUTION® safety function Safe Distance Monitoring (SDM®) won second prize at the coveted Handling Awards in the category "Quality and Safety". And this is what makes the new production line at Audi Brussels so extremely flexible. With its help, the EMS carriers always maintain exactly the right distance to ensure the safety of the plant workers. Even the curves are now usable for work stations.

Only ever as fast as necessary

Smooth motions without cycle times only work if the speed of the various transport units can be adjusted. At the Audi plant in Brussels, the carriers of the EMS move at speeds between one and 70 meters per minute, depending on the area and the requirements of the moment. At the assembly stations where the employees work, the units are limited to a safe speed of 15 meters per minute.

This wide range of speeds requires a wide speed setting range. It is made possible by the two travel drives in each carrier. The electronic motor used in each is of type DRC.., based on energy-efficient (IE4), decentralized synchronous servomotor technology (permanent magnets) with a setting range ratio of up to 1 to 2,000.

Virtual startup reduces the actual costs

All of the MAXOLUTION® solution components on the production line are monitored completely and transparently by our MOVIVISION plant software®. But this tool doesn't just keep an eye on the actual running processes. MOVIVISION® also supports plant manufacturers and operators in planning, dimensioning, simulating and starting up their conveyor technology.

Thanks to the possibilities of simulation and virtual startup, the project managers on site were able to drastically reduce the actual time needed for startup. "It took only four weeks to integrate 96 vehicles into the plant," recounted Dominik Adam, the project supervisor at LogSystems, the main contractor for the Audi Brussels project.

Both sides – LogSystems and Audi Brussels – are pleased with the good cooperation with our drive engineering experts and their partnership with SEW‑EURODRIVE. "When we get involved in a project, it's all or nothing," said Andreas Cremer, general secretary at Audi Brussels. On the companies participating, he added, "In our expectations of modern production technologies, we always keep pushing for the next step, so we depend on partners who can support and advise us in such processes. SEW‑EURODRIVE is that kind of partner, and we're proud of the cooperation we've established."

As one of the global leaders in drive and automation technology, SEW‑EURODRIVE counts many large and well-known automotive manufacturers among its customers. For example, since 2012, we have equipped Audi plants worldwide with over 2,000 electrified monorail system units and skillets with innovative drive solutions. Our specialists keep the installed components up to date with the latest functions and software updates, e.g. for condition monitoring, at all times.

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