As machine vision technologies improve, providing more data more frequently, new uses for inspection during the manufacturing process are emerging. The automotive industry might represent the ultimate challenge to providers of machine vision equipment used in robotic guidance and material inspection.
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The industrial world is continuing its adoption of Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T), the advanced tolerancing methodology. The symbolic language is intended to be both more precise while providing more latitude in allowable variations, replacing the simpler method of adding tolerances to each dimension.
“Five years ago, our fit and finish was below average,” said Dr. Raj Kawlra, director of dimensional strategy and management of Chrysler Group (Auburn Hills, MI). “To be the future world-leaders, we knew that we had to focus on all aspects of quality … vehicles that look good, feel good, sound good, and are reliable.”
Modern manufacturing is rapidly adopting model-based definition (MBD). When employing an MBD strategy, the CAD model becomes more than the nominal to which all parts are measured and inspected against. MBD keeps the all-important digital thread intact—from design to manufacturing to inspection and quality reporting.
While high-end metrology devices like advanced laser scanners or precision CMMs garner a lot of attention, it is hard to imagine any industrial setting without the presence of work-a-day hand-held, contact metrology tools such as calipers or micrometers. That is what Justin Frazzini, quality manager for A.A. Jansson (Waterford, MI), retailer and calibration and repair service provider, observes in his practice.
Why use a metrology device on or near a machine tool? It isn’t just useful for making sure a tool is present or monitoring tools for wear or breakage. On-machine measurement technologies can save time and money, by speeding up processes and eliminating extra personnel, and they are a critical step in the movement towards “lights-out” manufacturing.
The challenges to manufacturing as it evolves into the 21st century are now familiar, and impact how metrology must contribute. Manufacturers face uncertain production volumes with roller-coaster demand, shorter production runs and faster product development cycles. Automation, while alluring as a way to reduce cost, needs to adjust.
Off-line programming software tools for CMMs allow manufacturers to increase measurement capacity and throughput by programming CMMs, probes, and fixtures before parts are made.
Daimler may be the first vehicle maker to offer 3D-printed replacement parts, but racing enthusiasts and car collectors like Jay Leno have been using additive manufacturing and 3D scanning for many years to replace worn-out parts or to enhance their rides.
Challenged by an increasingly niche-oriented automotive market, The Chrysler Group (Auburn Hills, MI) must increase the number of models it offers while decreasing its capital investment. The company plans to offer 50% more models in 2009 compared to 2004, according to John Felice, VP of manufacturing, technology and global enterprise for Chrysler.