At Hitachi Metals Automotive Components USA LLC (HMAC), suspensions, exhaust manifolds and other components are assembled every day for all of the world’s leading automakers: Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, BMW, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi and Honda. Serving customers globally requires that the company build products according to very stringent quality and environmental management guidelines, including ISO 14001, ISO/TS 16949 and Ford Q1 status.

Automation is equally important. This past August, HMAC’s Effingham, IL, plant installed a customized HIT-0001 system that automatically assembles a turbo housing in less than 2 minutes. Compass Automation designed and built the system, which presses bushings and inserts valves, 2- and 4-millimeter roll pins and plastic clips into the housing. Compass also developed the automation for the cell where the system is located.

“This system assembles five different components automatically in about 90 seconds,” says Chris Asplin, director of engineering for HMAC. “But, what really caught our attention was that Compass did a prototype module for each assembly process prior to [finalizing the] system.”

Before initiating assembly, the operator loads roll pins, plastic clips and waste gate valves into bowl feeders and trays, and places a housing into a fixture mounted on a linear transport module. Upon initiation, the module transports the housing to the laser station, where a laser marks a 2D Data Matrix code. A vision system verifies that the mark is on the housing and correct in appearance.

The housing is then transported to the press station, where a bushing is pressed approximately half way into the proper bushing hole. After this, a Fanuc LR Mate robot retrieves a waste gate valve from a tray and inserts it into the bushing. The module transports the housing back to the press station to press the bushing the rest of the way into the hole.

Roll pin insertion is next and occurs at the drilling station. Holes for 2- and 4-millimeter roll pins are drilled, and the pins are inserted in separate steps. Finally, the housing is sent to another station, where a plastic clip is inserted onto the end of the valve. Now fully assembled, the housing is sent back to the loading area and unloaded by the operator.

Founded in 2009, Elgin, IL-based Compass Automation designs, builds and programs custom manufacturing equipment according to a design methodology called agile engineering. This modular approach enables Compass engineers to perform system debugging during building rather than after completion. It also provides more flexibility for design changes, shortens project timelines and mitigates overall project risk.

HMAC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Metals America. It operates another manufacturing plant in Wellsboro, PA, and a casting foundry in Lawrenceville, PA.

For more information on automated assembly and inspection systems, call 847-426-6696 or visit