Collaborating for a Flexible and Precise Assembly Line

Festo and Gefit have worked together on the manufacturing of an automatic assembly line for the automotive industry: Festo has supplied compressed air treatment and pneumatic handling devices, together with electrical components. Festo products have also been chosen for their preventive analysis capacity, capable of guaranteeing flexibility and immediate availability even in the event of sizing errors.

by Aldo Biasotto

Gefit is an Italian company founded by Pietro Zavattaro in 1967. The group is made up of two divisions: Gefit Molds & Assembly (molds and fast assemblies mainly for the medical, food & beverage and cosmetic sectors), based in the Fubine plant, and Gefit Automation in the Alessandria headquarters. With a turnover of around 80 million in 2019 and an export share of 74%, Gefit employs about 400 workers, 800 including the supply chain, operating on 6 different production plants (in addition to Italy, North America, Hungary, India and China). Gefit has a qualified and specialized workforce, composed of expert mechanical, electrical and IT designers, each of whom has developed a deep knowledge in prototyping, design and manufacturing in the most important sectors of industrial application. In particular, Gefit Automation manufactures automatic assembly lines especially for the automotive industry (from axles to engine parts, up to smaller components such as injectors, calipers, brake pads, etc.), which today is its core business, without forgetting other sectors such as White Goods (compressors, refrigerators and more) and the electrics and mechanics industry.

Even in case of errors, the wide range of Festo products guarantees flexibility and immediate availability.
Even in case of errors, the wide range of Festo products guarantees flexibility and immediate availability.

Recently, Gefit has supplied and already tested an automatic petrol injector assembly system consisting of twenty production cells for one of the main international OEMs, whose end customer is one of the most important automotive group worldwide.
Gefit has used different Festo products including compressed air treatment devices, pneumatic handling devices, as well as electrical components. In this chain line, the part is transferred location after location with implementation of components.

In this chain line, the part is transferred location after location with implementation of components.
In this chain line, the part is transferred location after location with implementation of components.

High flexibility and precision thanks to mechatronics

The partnership between Gefit and Festo, which has lasted for over 10 years, has been recently strengthened due to the mutual propensity for technological development, which has led to a surge in the use of Festo solutions. “In the last 3-4 years, driven by the market needs”, says Davide Merlotti, Gefit Mechanical Department Manager, “we have moved in the direction of increasing flexibility, which means having the possibility of making our machines more permeable to changes that may be necessary during the development phase, or during the improvement of the customer’s product”. Merlotti continues: “Pneumatics are very fast and cheap, but not very flexible. We have tried to increase machine flexibility, but avoiding excessively rich and complex mechatronics systems that are not recognized by the market in terms of value.

Festo has supplied compressed air treatment and pneumatic handling devices, together with electrical components.
Festo has supplied compressed air treatment and pneumatic handling devices, together with electrical components.

This is where the collaboration of Festo, our historical supplier of pneumatic components, came into play. In the Festo product range, we discovered other components that were right for us, first of all solving the technical problem. Then we compared the economic side, thus beginning to get to know the technical characteristics and costs of the mechatronic handling solutions with closed loop stepper drive systems, which guarantee high precision and flexibility, even if with lower speeds than pneumatics”.

This project includes two lines delivered in Bari, plus a sister plant that will be built in China.
This project includes two lines delivered in Bari, plus a sister plant that will be built in China.

After the internal cost/benefit analysis, this solution, which is profitable in terms of reliability, ease of use and flexibility, was therefore applied massively on the line. More and more product codes are increasingly produced in the same line, with modifications that can also be substantial.
Some solutions with electric axes developed by Gefit allow you to simply change a dimension inside the axis without changing the mechanics. The design of the new line has therefore made it possible to reduce timing, save resources for redesign and, consequently, become more effective.

This project includes two lines delivered in Bari, plus a sister plant that will be built in China.
This project includes two lines delivered in Bari, plus a sister plant that will be built in China.

From pure mechanics to mechatronics

This project includes two lines delivered in Bari, plus a sister plant that will be built directly in China for the end customer’s Chinese plant, plus a fourth line that will also include another similar but new product. “For this order, also thanks to Festo,” adds Marco Carniato, Gefit Sales Manager, “we were able to offer a change of technology: from pure mechanics to mechatronics. The software sector did an excellent job preparing standard interface tools with the chosen axes, so that the assembly operators could feed the axes immediately.

The automatic installation system for petrol injectors is made up of about twenty production cells.
The automatic installation system for petrol injectors is made up of about twenty production cells.

Magneti Marelli was the right partner to launch innovative solutions, because it is a customer who, despite its considerable size, is very flexible in interfacing and discussing, and we have a great relationship of trust with them”. The relationship between Gefit and the OEM is really solid and has been going on for a long time: in addition to the injectors, several other systems have been built in synergy over the years, always using Festo products, both in Italy and around the world (Germany, USA, China, India).