In the manufacturing sector, the automotive industry has always captivated the minds of customers the most. From its shop floors, this robust industry regularly rolls out attractive new and most sophisticatedly designed vehicles for us to drive. However, in fiercely competitive market manufacturers can ill-afford to ignore rigorous inspections. Manufacturers always need to be on their toes while ensuring their makes remain free of even a minute defect, with respect to quality and safety. Much to their benefit, in their inspection tasks, the current sea-change advancements in computer and robotics technologies, while virtually turning facilities into smart factories, are proving to be their valuable aid.
Latest Inspection Methods
The factory floors of all the leading automobile manufacturers are today equipped with extremely sophisticated technologies to undertake the vital inspection operations. The chief methods, most of which are used from the initial to concluding stages of manufacturing as mentioned below:
Machine Vision (MV)
The Machine Vision technology uses computerised sensors and robotics application for inspection tasks. The key inspections performed by MV include:
- Cosmetic flaws like dents, dings and wrinkles on body panels and functional flaws such as bearing surface irregularities of automotive rocker arms etc.
- Spacing issues determination and mounting holes size checking on disk brake pads.
- MV also verifies whether all parts are present at various stages of production. In the assembly line, it detects errors related to closure panels that include doors, lift gates, hoods, and tailgates.
- It also indicates incorrect shapes of parts such as gears, which go toothless or with malformed teeth.
- MV with the use of dimensional gauging looks into the of precision machined components like fasteners, transmissions etc and rejects parts outside the correct tolerances. find their way to into vehicles departing the assembly line.
Innovating Laser-based Robotic Inspection
This inline method involves inspection through 6-axis robot arms mounted on either side of the production line. With the help of laser rays, they are able to automatically inspect areas otherwise hidden the from the line of sight because of the doorframe or other body panels.
The robot can move around the laser-radar, guaranteeing collection of measurements of vehicle coordinate with precise accuracy. This data is feed into a software which processes it and gives instant reports. The addition of new vehicles styles in the future only needs a re-programming of the inspection plan.
Automated dimensional metrology
Automotive manufacturing companies are increasingly shedding off manual inspections in favour of optical metrology systems on robots in their plants.
For inspections. the advanced technology integrates thermal sensors with Coordinate Measuring Machines or CMMs for detecting temperature variations and applying corrections to the CMM in real time. The factory floor CMMs can be used in the production line, even under thermally unstable environments. The inline CMMs consist of highly automated systems which enable high-speed inspection of vehicle parts during manufacturing.
Barcode scanners are a part of the visual inspection itinerary which uses machine vision for reading 2D data matrix. This technology is employed for reading codes laser etched on automobile parts, They check if the right barcodes are passing in the supply chain from the cartons or as individual items. The scanners are typically linked to the database through software for checking and sorting purposes.
The automotive industry has drawn remarkable benefits from the advancements in the fields of computer software engineering and robotics. Companies are manufacturing near flawless automobiles to ensure comfort and safety of the customers. The role of inspection in this process remains critically indispensable. Further advancements in technology can only refine the existing methods of automotive inspection.