Comau enables flexible production with an innovative body welding solution for Hycan

As consumers escalate their requirements for high-quality vehicles, market demand is becoming increasingly more diverse and personalized. As a result, automotive manufacturing has gradually evolved from mass production to multi-variant and low-volume assembly. To meet this challenge, automakers are focusing on production methods that adapt to this market trend by shortening the model change cycle and accelerating model renewal. This means that one production line must assume the task of co-line production for multiple models to achieve greater cost-efficiency, thus requiring greater flexibility for the body-in-white production line.

Established in 2018, Hycan Automotive Technology Co., Ltd. (Hycan) specializes in the development and service of new energy vehicles, with a strategic focus on attracting young consumers in the Chinese market. Given the diverse preferences of its target users, the need to develop a rich product range in a short period of time, and the rapid iteration of its offer, the Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer tasked Comau with building a highly flexible welding assembly line that could keep pace with its evolving manufacturing needs. 

The results of the first collaboration between Hycan and Comau are very satisfactory. Comau’s innovation in R&D and professional engineering management throughout the project have fully demonstrated its position as a leader in body solutions and provided an important guarantee of the processing efficiency and quality for our first model production project.

Feng Yiqiang, Director of Hycan Intelligent Process.

The Challenge

Hycan needed an assembly solution that could meet the demands of customized mass production while saving costs and improving cycle efficiency. Yet because the initiative would represent the first production project since its inception, significant consideration had to be given to the compatibility with the mature models and existing manufacturing platforms being used by its joint venture partner GAC Group.

In other words, Comau needed to ensure compatibility with existing production platforms together with the seamless introduction, adaptation and scaling of the new Hycan models. Comau also needed to grant Hycan complete flexibility in the future. Finally, the solution would have to achieve a cycle efficiency of 60 Jobs per Hour (JPH) to support the customer’s target production capacity.

The Solution

Comau engineers set out to design a highly flexible welding assembly line that would both enable the production of multiple vehicle types at once, and allow production quantities to be adjusted according to market conditions. This would, in turn, significantly shorten the production cycle while ensuring both economies of scale and the ability to meet the customer’s product diversification needs. 

By combining its longstanding expertise with process and design excellence, Comau developed a highly intelligent framing line solution that reflects its commitment to helping improve flexibility and efficiency in body assembly. The innovative welding system is characterized by the independent development and transformation of its transmission mechanism. Thanks to a clever combination of the transmission mode and a flexible servo positioning mechanism, which is further aided by Comau’s Opengate body-in-white assembly and virtual commissioning technologies, the comprehensive solution ensures multi-model manufacturing, fast cycle times and a concrete reduction in production losses.

To solve the issues of new vehicle introduction, slow shifting speed and high costs, Comau engineers spent two months modifying the framing line’s shuttle-based  conveying method and combining it with a flexible servo positioning mechanism. In this way, the cost advantages and cycle time improvements can be applied to both solutions by balancing the low cost and high speed of the transmission solution with the easy scalability and high repeatability of the NC Locator fixture solution.

Another fundamental part of the line is Comau’s Opengate assembly system, which grants flexible high-precision body-in-white assembly by placing the fixture for different models on their respective connected slides. In this way, fixture and model changeover simply requires moving the fixture of different models to the assembly station. 

The Results

By working together with Hycan to achieve a flexible automated production mode that can randomly switch between four different platforms, Comau has designed and deployed an innovative welding line able to handle the customer’s need for advanced, customized body solutions. 

Thanks to an automation rate of 100% with an OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) exceeding 90%, the Comau-designed solution ensures annual production capacity of up to 200,000 units, as required by the customer. Furthermore, the flexibility of the Opengate assembly system enables it to adapt to the co-line production of multiple products, regardless of whether there is a toy tab requirement. And because it can complete random mix production from 1 to 6 models, it allows Hycan to achieve true zero-loss production.

The project has been deployed at Hycan Hangzhou manufacturing base, where it is now mass producing the brand’s pure electric smart sedan, the A06, and trendy smart-driving pure electric SUV Z03.




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