W116 is a codename of first Mercedes-Benz S-Class car. It was manufactured in Sindelfingen, Germany from 1972 to 1980. This is a very interesting period from our point of view: the first robots were installed in this factory in 1971 by KUKA is a manufacturer of industrial robots and solutions for factory automation. The KUKA Robotics Corporation has 25 subsidiaries worldwide, mostly sales and service subsidiaries, including in the United States,... More.
At that time KUKA did not have its own robots, it was an integrator of Unimate products. I found a film showing the W116 production process. It’s an amazing journey into the past. You can see the production from sheet metal stamping to final assembly. Cars building methods from the1970s cannot be compared to today’s manufacturing process, especially in terms of quality and occupational safety.
Nowadays, manual unloading of the body panel from a hydraulic press looks at least inconvenient.
People replaced by robots
Not everyone is familiar with the car building process so below you could find a modern Mercedes production video. Please notice how many differences are between those videos. Nowadays almost all processes in body shop are made with robots. Not only because of the performance and quality of production but also because of safety.
The joining technologies are also different. Spot welding is still with us but there is also a laser welding and much more glueing.
In next year there will be a premiere of next S-class (codename W223). I’m curious which improvements to production processes will bring to us (hint: confix joining 🙂 ).