Optimising the Shift to Automated Inline Inspection

by Nicolas Lachaud-Bandres on May 29, 2019 From Industry Focus, Technology, Thought Leader

The whole automotive manufacturing supply chain is under pressure to respond to a fundamental shift, driven by global and national energy regulations that are shaped by the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).

CAFE standards regulate how far vehicles travel on a gallon of fuel and are behind the drive to produce plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV). But powertrain electrification gives rise to manufacturing challenges, such as creating lighter parts that resist high torque, which need to be overcome without incurring costs or denting productivity.

New challenges make inline, automated, CMM-based quality control essential, as manufacturers seek to continuously control production, adapt to ongoing change and quickly deliver productivity benefits. But to ensure the smooth automated integration of measurement assets, be it a CMM, sensors, or metrology software, there are three key elements to bear in mind: measurement flexibility, throughput and connectivity.

Measurement Flexibility

The adoption of Industry 4.0 practices is leading to re-configurable production lines and greater flexibility of processes and assets. Opting for a CMM with absolute measurement, rather than a metrology system dedicated to a specific part, gives automotive manufacturers the measurement flexibility and versatility they need to move towards smarter manufacturing.

Greater flexibility can be obtained by selecting a Shop-Floor CMM – like TIGO SF – which is tailored for the industrial environment. Rugged and easy-to-redeploy, the TIGO SF has open access, which allows integrators to easily position it inline and equip it with several part-handling robots that can access it from the sides and the top.

While the CMM is measuring automatically in the production line, manufacturers can further increase efficiency by using offline metrology programming software in PC-DMIS or QUINDOS to develop routines based on CAD models and drawings and run them through simulation programmes. The GD&T Selection and Capture tool in PC-DMIS, for example, automatically transfers GD&T data from 2D blueprints into the PC-DMIS measurement routine. PC-DMIS also includes a Calibration Collision Avoidance feature that identifies areas of possible collision and automatically inserts safe moves directly into the measurement routine.

Throughput

Achieving high production rates and getting parts right first time is key to success in the automotive mass market, and it calls for high throughput metrology solutions.

A CMM’s speed obviously impacts measurement throughput but the probing head also plays a crucial role. To ensure maximum speed and high measurement quality, manufacturers should look to combine a CMM such as GLOBAL S Chrome with an automatic probe head.

The design of the automated fixturing system, which receives the part from a robot, also impacts throughput. A good metrology fixture firmly holds the part on the CMM, guaranteeing R&R, without obstructing access to critical features. Automated vacuum fixtures work best for large or spherical parts, whereas mechanical clamping suits heavier parts. Magnetic fixtures, meanwhile, are perfectly tailored for small parts that may not have enough clearance for mechanical clamping.

Capturing and using absolute metrology data to improve throughput across the whole production process make the manufacturing line faster and smarter. For instance, manufacturers equipped with Q-DAS software are able to use statistical process control data in conjunction with CNC machines to develop closed feedback loops and increase their quality rate and throughput.

CMM Connectivity

One of the key factors - maybe the most important – when determining the acceptance of inline metrology equipment is its compatibility with existing end-user systems, be it operational technology (OT) protocols, manufacturing execution systems (MES), or programmable logic controllers (PLC). A CMM that connects easily to existing and future systems reduces integration time and costs and simplifies re-deployment.

Given the rate of manufacturing digitalisation, any new software or hardware has to go beyond meeting immediate connectivity needs. It should be modular and configurable and allow manufacturers to easily integrate inspection into current and future automated workflows.

Hexagon’s I/O Flow Manager removes systems integration barriers by facilitating the integration of CMM hardware into the production environment through a combination of dedicated hardware, including I/O and field bus compatibility, and software components that provide seamless interfaces to production equipment and robots.

Read how an oil-hydraulic control unit manufacturer has benefited from the TIGO SF and contact your local Hexagon representative to find out more about our automated CMM measurement solutions.

Nicolas Lachaud-Bandres

Nicolas Lachaud-Bandres is the Business Development Manager for CMM Integration and Automation at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. Before joining Hexagon, Nicolas was a sales and business development manager for a metrology integration company. Nicolas holds an engineering degree in applied physics and instrumentation from INSA Toulouse, France, and an advanced master’s degree in business engineering and international affairs from MSIAI – INSA Toulouse, France.

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