February 26, 2024Unveiling the Hidden Hurdles of Automotive Part Manufacturers See the article
Based on the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) projections (featured in the newest edition of the Global EV Outlook), the share of electric vehicles (EVs) in the overall car market has risen from around 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022 and is set to increase further to 18% in 2023. There is no doubt that demand for EVs is booming, and sales are set to surge to another record total this year.
Government incentives, consumer behavior, and improvements in EV technology have all driven this significant growth. Governments around the world have introduced policies to encourage EV adoption. Consumer awareness has evolved, with increased demand for greener technologies and sustainable mobility modes. Battery technology also continues to improve, leading to longer driving ranges on a single charge. Finally, charging infrastructure is expanding rapidly to support the growing number of EVs on the road.
New Parts but the Same Need for Quality Control
OEMs and part manufacturers who were used to producing traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles must now adapt to this sea change. The pivot from ICE to EV will disrupt the entire supply chain. As new parts must be developed and produced, the process of electrification will create a significant shift in market size for automotive components.
Throughout all these changes, part quality must remain impeccable. Each part must comply with the highest quality standards and meet the tightest tolerances while also meeting the production throughput specifically required by the automotive industry.
Some Challenges Awaiting EV Part Manufacturers
Measuring Reflective Materials
The parts used in making EVs, such as the battery tray, are typically made from lightweight and durable materials like aluminum, steel, or composite materials, which are mostly reflective. Any measurement technology involving white or blue light is sensitive to surface finishes and may require surface preparation (in the form of powder application) to perform inspections properly. Such treatment means one more step in the inspection process, which means more time to manufacture and deliver the parts.
Inspecting EV Parts While Increasing Throughput
Traditional inspection methods usually take time. Coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) are located in dedicated metrology labs, necessitating a lot of programming, setup, and back-and-forth with the production line. CMMs are not the fastest inspection tools and require metrology experts to operate them. In addition, they are often in high demand, busy with all types of inspections. All these extra steps congest and slow the inspection process, impairing the production throughput.
Controlling Large and Complex Parts
The battery tray is the EV’s main structural part. Therefore, the trays are large in size, and a single person cannot move them easily. Moreover, they are produced in harsh environments with ubiquitous oscillations, vibrations, and thermal variations—not ideal for performing highly accurate measurements. On top of that, they also feature extrusions that can be laborious to measure with traditional tools.
Solution: Accuracy on the Shop Floor
Ideally, auto part manufacturers need to be able to inspect their large and complex parts directly on the shop floor without compromising on accuracy or requiring surface preparation. Their metrology instrument must measure more quickly and require less training, handling, and programming time than CMMs, which will help accelerate inspection time and increase production throughput.
Why Dura Automotive Systems Chose Creaform
DURA Automotive Systems is a global automotive supplier specializing in the design, engineering, and manufacturing of solutions that drive the evolution of mobility. Fond of state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge manufacturing processes, the company is known for its support of a well-known luxury automotive brand in joining the EV revolution.
In its quest for the most advanced technology to meet its precision measurement needs, DURA Auto has chosen Creaform for its additional measuring capacity, portability, and flexibility. Armed with the MetraSCAN 3D and HandyPROBE (paired with Polyworks), the engineers can achieve precision tolerances for the most demanding product specifications.
In addition, the unmatched speed and portability of the measuring instruments contributed to reducing the inspection time, which impacted the overall efficiency of the manufacturing process and the production throughput.
We use the Creaform MetraSCAN 3D and HandyPROBE as portable measurement stations to measure incoming extrusions and get quick scans of the product before it moves forward to a mill to ensure the mill will accept the part. Thanks to Creaform, we have increased our capacity by 75%.
-Branden Head, Metrology Supervisor at Dura Automotive
The distinct performance obtained with Creaform and Polyworks has confirmed their strong reputation in the 3D measurement industry. “Creaform and its 3D measurement solutions were pivotal for the measurement capability in our facility,” adds Mr. Head. “Our project would have struggled with capacity and mobility without Creaform’s and Polyworks’s technology.”
Solution: Automated Quality Control
Automated quality control (AQC) systems are becoming a key strategy for increasing inspection efficiency and production throughput without sacrificing measurement accuracy. No matter the production type—high mix/low volume or low mix/high volume—AQC solutions can be integrated within a production line quickly and without any lengthy training or significant downtimes. They will automatically slash data acquisition times from hours to mere minutes, all while ensuring manufacturers feel confident that the EV parts are approved according to tight tolerances and industry regulations.
Walter Automobiltechnik GmbH is a renowned German part and accessory supplier for big OEMs in the automotive and motorcycle industries. Over the past few years, skyrocketing demand from OEMs for new EV parts drove the company to look for an alternative inspection approach to improve its part quality and productivity. In particular, Walter Automobiltechnik wanted a solution to replace its manual methods and traditional CMM in producing an EV engine mount for BMW’s new fully electric Mini Cooper SE.
Looking to assess the quality of its EV engine mounts and maintain a short cycle time, Walter Automobiltechnik turned to Creaform’s R-Series. The metrology team implemented the MetraSCAN 3D-R, a powerful robot-mounted optical scanner, into two custom, automated industrial measuring cells at the end of the production line. VXelements, Creaform’s fully integrated 3D software platform, was also chosen to conduct the inspections.
With the MetraSCAN 3D-R’s high measurement rate, Walter Automobiltechnik drastically reduced its inspection time from one hour and 30 minutes to just eight minutes per mount—all with an accuracy of 0.05 mm. Undoubtedly, Walter Automobiltechnik could not have achieved that level of throughput with a traditional CMM. “In the future, we think this system is a must-have in the automotive industry,” said Tommy Laukdrej, Head of Quality Management at Walter Automobiltechnik.
Faster Inspection Time for Higher Production Throughput
Any proven and trusted method that accelerates inspection time will lead to higher production throughput. Whether automotive parts manufacturers are performing inspections directly on the shop floor or automating the inspection process without compromising on accuracy, they have everything to gain from considering portable or automated 3D scanning solutions. On top of that, their increased efficiency will greatly please their customers.