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Software, Quality Inspection Deliver Auto Parts Safety

Jim Lorincz
By Jim Lorincz Contributing Editor, SME Media
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Bernd Föller, who heads the measuring lab for ODW Elektrik, uses a volume model created with the CT scanner to illustrate how the company meets quality requirements for safety auto components like airbags and seatbelts.

Although drivers may not know it, cable connections for the airbags and seatbelt buckle systems in their vehicle simply would not work without components manufactured by ODW-Elektrik. A development partner and supplier for high-quality cabling, solenoids and mechatronic systems used in vehicles around the world, ODW-Elektrik supplies most of its products to Bosch, Autoliv, Brose, VW, and ZF.

“The quality requirements facing OEMs continue to rise,” said Martin Ehret, managing director, who heads the company. At the same time, the built-in electronic components are becoming even smaller and more complex. On top of all this, customers increasingly expect that their suppliers, including ODW-Elektrik, will deliver zero-defect components that can be installed without additional inspection.

“This is an enormous responsibility,” said Ehret, and not just at company headquarters in Steinau an der Straße, a town 60 km to the east of Frankfurt, Germany. Here, the company primarily manufactures solenoids and mechatronic systems on fully automated production lines, and quality is no less of a given at the company’s other sites in Macedonia, Hungary, and Ukraine.

There, the company focuses on producing wiring harnesses and electronic assemblies. ODW-Elektrik opened another site in Mexico in 2016 to supply the regional NAFTA markets quickly and reliably. For the managing director, this expansion has definitely paid off. Since 2010, ODW-Elektrik has doubled its revenue and increased its headcount from 900 to just under 2,300.

For decades, ODW-Elektrik has placed its trust in Zeiss to ensure the quality and reliability of its components. Recently, the automotive supplier added a Zeiss METROTOM 800 computer tomograph to its existing list of Zeiss equipment, which already included multiple O-SELECT systems, NEO select and NEO insights software.

Management ultimately decided to purchase the METROTOM 800 because of the enhanced measuring and inspection options, as well as the integration with NEO insights software.

Bernd Föller, head of the ODW-Elektrik measuring lab, explained the thinking behind these additional purchases: “The O-SELECT and the accompanying NEO select software make measuring parts
in 2D quick and easy. Moreover, measurement and operator errors are almost entirely eliminated because the optimum illumination and focusing are set automatically. Thus we are able to even perform complex measurements very quickly and with results we can count on. Since it is easy to learn the software, we were able to train new employees quickly.”

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In the measuring lab, an employee inspects ODW-Elektrik parts with the Zeiss O-SELECT. The accompanying software, Zeiss NEO select, nearly eliminates measurement errors, according to Zeiss.

An employee in the measuring lab performs measurements with O-SELECT in the following manner. He inspects a filigree part for a solenoid to be used on a fuel injection valve. Föller explained that, while previously they would have used a contact measurement to inspect this part, the necessary fixturing proved difficult and time-consuming. With O-SELECT, no clamping is necessary.

The operator positions the part for the serial measurement and presses a button to start the system’s automatic functions. This is practical for more than just batch measurements. “Just a few clicks are required to select the required characteristics, even for a single measurement or when creating a measurement plan,” said Föller. Instead of navigating through submenus, the operator measures directly in the image using NEO select software and does not need to leave the main window for most actions.

“The operator has all the necessary functions and information in one spot,” said Föller, making measurements even easier and, at the same time, more reliable. For example, using an automatically high-contrast and focused image, O-SELECT identifies potential features like circles and straight lines. Moving the cursor over one of these features displays possible characteristics such as radii, distances, and angles. This process is known as click & pick.

Föller is proud to report that ODW-Elektrik was involved in further developing this software. “Zeiss heard what we had to say and modified the software based on our feedback.”

To also be able to perform 3D, contactless measurements in the future, ODW-Elektrik equipped its measuring lab in Steinau with the METROTOM. According to Thomas Mack, head of quality management, this industrial computer tomograph, or CT scanner, offers outstanding features. With conventional measuring technology, inspection is time-consuming and the component is destroyed layer by layer; industrial computed tomography visualizes hidden structures in 3D without destroying the component.

“Just one X-ray scan gives us all the data we need to check and measure our components and take further action as necessary,” said Mack. “This even includes air pockets that I would not be able to see on a CMM. And equally important, creating a measurement plan is faster than with contact measurements. The time required for measurements and analyses when sampling have been reduced by up to 75%.

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Thomas Mack, head of quality management (left), and Bernd Föller, head of the measuring lab for ODW-Elektrik, are responsible for ensuring the quality of electromechanical parts.

Before ODW-Elektrik invested in its own CT scanner, it sent individual components to the Zeiss Metrology Center in Cologne for X-ray inspection and would then evaluate the point clouds in house using the NEO insights software.

Mack and Föller are both impressed with the software. “The intuitive user interface shows me which point I am looking at and guides me through the entire measurement run using a blue thread, a feature I was already familiar with from NEO select,” said Mack. “Moreover, for many tasks I can work using the mouse directly in the film gate instead of clicking through different menus.”

Additional highlights of NEO insights Mack uses include automatic alignment and material detection, where different material components are identified based on their thickness and assigned contrasting colors when visualized. The software also enables the operator to work at an offline programming station, including at other company locations or even at a supplier’s site where the employees analyze the point cloud from a CT scan performed in Steinau. Mack reported that “the software was a key reason why we opted for the METROTOM CT scanner. Anyone who has mastered O-SELECT and thus NEO select can begin working with the scans created on the METROTOM and evaluated in NEO insights in next to no time.”

Additional software already integrated in NEO select and NEO insights, called PiWeb, is used for reporting the measurement results. The software ensures an optimal display and assessment of the measurement results, generating the information needed to increase quality and efficiency during production. The software has worked well. “We have a parts per million rate of less than five,” said Mack. “Those are some impressive results!”

According to Mack, the next step for ODW-Elektrik is to upgrade to PiWeb sbs in 2018. “In addition to outstanding hardware, software is absolutely crucial for achieving faster, but also more reliable measurement results—and that is exactly what NEO select and NEO insights allow us to do. Ultimately, this helps us better manage our processes and ensure we manufacture high-quality products.” ODW-Elektrik plans to purchase two additional O-SELECT systems for its sites in Macedonia and Mexico in 2018.

For more information from Zeiss Industrial Metrology, go to www.zeiss.com/metrology, or phone 800-327-9735.

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