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How can Automotive Part Manufacturers Improve Productivity, Perform More Inspections Faster and with More Information

Challenges: From sheet metal stamping to final assembly, what is the best way to get the perfect fit?

In the automotive industry, parts that comprise a complete car body are made by sheet metal stamping. These parts, which are all manufactured separately and punched in several stages, are welded together to form the final assembly. How can manufacturers make sure that automotive parts that are produced separately will fit together to form the final car body?
 

Automotive production line - Sheet metal production   Metal sheet accumulating at the end of a production line

 

From simple to complex stamping operations, how can part quality be guaranteed?

Depending on the complexity of the automotive part, the stamping process can be done in a single stage operation (i.e., each stroke from the stamping press produces the desired form on the sheet metal part), or it can be done through a series of stages performed at high speed.

Knowing that different, hard-to-predict events, such as spring backs, can occur during stamping, how can manufacturers guarantee that parts formed by stamping and produced at a high-speed production rate can be assembled properly at the end of the manufacturing process?

Between inspecting first and last produced parts, how can productivity be improved?

In general, quality control is ensured with inspections performed on the first produced parts during a shift (first of inspections) and on the last produced parts during the same shift (last of inspections). All of these inspections represent a huge number of parts to inspect.

To be fully productive, the automotive industry would have to measure all of these parts. The problem is that doing all of these inspections on a coordinate measuring machine (CMM), which is a traditional metrology instrument that takes a long time to program and is slow to operate, is not efficient.

Thus the question is how can productivity be improved and quality control enhanced so that more parts can be measured in order to increase throughput (i.e., the number of parts that can be shipped for final assembly)?

From short to long inspection programs, how can flexibility be gained?

There are several ways to inspect the automotive parts produced by stamping. The inspections can be done with a checking fixture, where the parts are positioned to look at the trim and to check the presence and the diameter of the holes. However, the template does not provide any information regarding the overall shape of the part or the position of the holes.

To overcome this lack of information, CMM operators have to conduct either a long inspection program—measuring all entities—or a short inspection program—measuring only the critical items with tight tolerances or those that have shown recent deviations.

How does the metrology team deal with all of these inspection programs (long and short) knowing that if a quality problem is detected, a series of alerts will be raised and investigations to find the cause of the problem will become the priority?

During these investigations, no time is spent on the first and last of inspections, which pile up. Is it possible to gain productivity and have more flexibility in order to absorb these periods of emergency so that the normal inspection plan that customers require is not neglected?

Solutions: Portable 3D Scanning Technology

Automation is the solution to increasing productivity and aligning quality control with the production pace of the automotive industry. To do so, a robotic cell for automated quality control, such as CUBE-R, is the preferred solution.

However, the transition from conducting first and last inspections on the CMM to getting a robotic cell of automated quality control can be done more smoothly. A first step can be to opt for a solution to perform inspections directly on the production floor. Choosing a 3D scanning technology, rather than probing, will allow for more information to be obtained more quickly. Portable 3D scanners such as the HandySCAN 3D or the MetraSCAN 3D are good examples of these easy-to-use solutions.

Benefits: With Portability, Speed, Efficiency, and Accuracy, the Automotive Industry Improves Productivity

Opting for a portable 3D scanning technology allows for faster inspections with more information about the entire surface of the automotive part. The time saved can be used to:

  • Have more latitude when urgent matters interrupt inspections: Because 3D scanners are quick measuring tools, they contribute to reducing inspection time, freeing up precious CMM time that can be used for investigations when quality issues are detected.
  • Allow more parts to be inspected during first and last of inspections: Because 3D scanners are efficient measuring equipment, they make it possible to inspect more parts with more data and without surface treatment, providing automotive manufacturers with the necessary information for the first and last of inspections.
  • Do more long programs: Because 3D scanners are accurate and portable metrology instruments, they can measure the entire surface accurately, without having to move the parts since it is the portable tool that goes to them. This time saving enables operators to do more long inspection programs.
  • Do more quality assurance and preventive maintenance: Because 3D scanners improve productivity of the automotive industry, part manufacturers can inspect more dimensions and more parts, freeing up human resources to analyze the data obtained in order to do more quality assurance, take preventive actions, and avoid quality problems.

 

In short, thanks to its portability, speed, efficiency, and accuracy, portable 3D scanning technology can increase productivity.

Eventually, it will be possible to have a system on the production line to measure 100% of the parts. In the meantime, it is good to be able to rely on a technology that provides the assets to foresee the problems and, above all, eliminate emergencies.

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