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Rapid, Accurate Inspection Meets NASCAR Engine Maker’s Need for Speed

By Roush Yates Engines

Roush Yates Engines (RYE) achieves rapid and accurate non-contact inspection of NASCAR engine components with minimal need for fixtures using the iNEXIV VMA4540 vision system from Nikon Metrology Inc., Brighton, Mich.

Joey Logano of Team Penske, shown leading the pack, won the 2019 FireKeepers Casino 400 on June 10 at Michigan International Speedway. (All images supplied by Roush Yates Engines)

In 2003, Jack Roush and Robert Yates partnered with Ford Motor Co. as the exclusive Ford Engine builder for NASCAR. The company, founded in Mooresville, N.C. and led by Doug Yates, president and CEO, has achieved 23 Championships, 362 combined wins and 337 pole positions in NASCAR, IMSA, and FIA racing series.

From the outset, RYE dominated NASCAR and has gone from success to success. For Roush Yates Engines, speed is the bottom line and by 2013, Michael Shank Racing, running a RYE engine in partnership with Ford Performance, set a new speed record of 222.971 mph (358.837 kph) at Daytona International Speedway with the twin-turbo Ford EcoBoost V6 race engine.

In 2018, Nikon Metrology and RYE announced a new partnership program. The iNEXIV VMA-4540 vision system, which was installed in March 2018, has proven to be an invaluable and easy-to-use system, according to the companies. The vision system is used almost daily for a variety of purposes.

A company obsessed with speed understands its importance not just on the race track, but in developing and using the latest technological innovations. In such a highly competitive environment, it is vital to meet tight schedules to have the latest equipment on the track and functioning perfectly ahead of rivals.

At RYE, Nikon’s CMM-Manager organizes and reports data on inspection and measurement results of engine components such as this gasket as well as push rods, clips, O-rings, oil holes, rocker cups, and radii on rollers—about 50 individual parts totaling 50,000 part per year.

A combination of factors, including labor-intensive programming and potential workflow bottlenecks with CMMs, prompted RYE to research a better, more robust non-contact measurement system. Previous methods encountered more and more issues that could compromise engine quality. Manual microscopes, for example, took a lot of time to obtain and consolidate accurate and repeatable data with confidence, and complex radii and tapered outer diameters proved difficult to characterize with touch probing systems. For a CMM to access important features, additional complex fixturing was required, but not readily available.

Ultimately, a cost-effective, non-contact measurement system that could provide radii, taper and other measurements necessary to alleviate workflow bottlenecks and increase accuracy and repeatability using fewer fixtures was chosen. Roush Yates Engines selected the Nikon iNEXIV VMA-4540 inspection system combined with CMM-Manager software.

Jennifer LaFever, RYE director of quality-NASCAR production, explained that the system was very easy to get up and running. Programming started during the first week with a trainer, and was accomplished alone without the trainer the following week. She added that the CMM-Manager layout is user friendly and less intimidating to new programmers than other systems, and the vision interface is intuitive and easy to learn. Even colleagues outside of the quality department have been trained so they can take quick measurements as well as high-resolution photos of key features, defects, or failures.

“The training was personalized to our needs, so we were able to get exactly what we needed out of the training,” said LaFever. “There were some training materials reviewed at the beginning that was overview information about the software, but everything after that was tailored to our specific needs. We wrote programs on our actual parts with the trainer, and those programs were operational to start running parts after the training was complete.”

RYE selected the Nikon iNEXIV VMA-4540 inspection system combined with CMM-Manager software for fast, accurate, non-contact inspection of race components for week-to-week engineering changes needed to meet the engine maker’s need for speed.

The iNEXIV VMA-4540 is currently being used to measure all NASCAR engine components as needed. This includes gaskets, clips, O-rings, oil holes, rocker cups, and radii on rollers—about 50 unique part numbers, totaling around 50,000 parts per year. To deal with this workload, RYE relies on the speed and accuracy of the vision system. A major benefit of the system is that it can access features of small and fragile parts without contact for more reliable results without damaging the parts.

For RYE, information is key. Races happen every week and information is needed very quickly so improvements and enhancements can be ready and available on the track within a matter of days. The sooner these tweaks and changes can be made, the better the opportunity teams have of gaining the competitive edge and winning races.

The vision system allows RYE to evaluate a multitude of data points much faster than previously, according to Alexander Morothy, RYE quality control technician and vision programmer. “This system is extremely fast at measuring parts and gathering data. The greatest benefit of the speed is through the CMM-Manager. Programming new parts is extremely fast and with the touch probe, simultaneously programming vision and touch is easy and accurate,” he said.

As a result, RYE is able to provide quicker answers for the production and engineering departments to implement improvements or address potential concerns. An example of this is pin checking small holes. The quality department is able to check very small holes on 100 pieces in 12 to 14 minutes while simultaneously performing other inspection steps. This would previously have taken 20 to 30 minutes before any other steps could be performed. This represents a 50 percent reduction in inspection time and a 97 percent reduction in labor time.

Morothy explained that linear measurements, programming, and longer parts measurement are very simple with the alignment process and data reporting of CMM-Manager. “Colleagues in the quality department can measure multiple unrelated features along the length of a part and then report the measurements between features in an organized manner. The VMA-4540 can travel the length of the stage in approximately three seconds, so larger parts can be measured very quickly. Previously, it would take two minutes to manually check eight dimensions on each gasket individually. However, with the vision system up to five gaskets can be on the stage, all measured within two to three minutes. This increases the overall efficiency and throughput, consequently reducing inspection time by around 80 percent,” he said.

Joey Logano’s car at a pit stop during the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

With some welcome reductions in inspection and labor time, the iNEXIV VMA 4540 has already demonstrated its value to RYE, ensuring the latest innovations are on the track ahead of the competition. The CMM-Manager software is a crucial enabler of the vision system as it makes programming easier for both beginners and experienced programmers. The speed of the software also makes programming new parts extremely fast. With the touch probe, simultaneously programming vision and touch is easy and accurate.

By reducing the potential for workflow bottlenecks, the quality department is increasingly efficient in obtaining the most accurate results possible in a short time span. The fast and accurate, highly repeatable measurements enable a shorter communication and feedback loop between the quality department and production/ engineering. This efficiency of teamwork is vital for bringing the latest innovations to fruition quicker. RYE is winning both on and off the track, with fast production facilitating faster performances on the track.

For more information from Nikon Metrology Inc., go to or phone 800-552-6648.

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