Lean thinking focuses on ways to add value without wasting resources. Benjamin Franklin captured the idea in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” when he said, “He that idly loses five shillings worth of time, loses five shillings and might as prudently throw five shillings into the river.”
At Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America Inc., adding value to its operations while finding ways to eliminate waste is both a state of mind and the way the company approaches parts production. Based in Russells Point, Ohio, the automotive OEM makes automatic transmissions, gears and four-wheel-drive components in a 1,000,000 ft2 (92,903 m2) facility that is ISO 14001 certified.
In 2016, Dan Sokolow, engineering coordinator for Honda Transmission, began looking at ways to update the manufacturer’s quality inspection methods. “Our transmission lines basically run themselves,” he said, “but we were conducting quality inspections using a hard fixture with bar gages. The fixture was costly, part inspections took longer than we wanted, and we weren’t able to collect live data. Instead, inspections were based on a go/no go response.”
A coordinate measuring machine’s (CMM) ability to collect data points and provide feedback in real time was attractive. Sokolow considered a couple of CMM providers. But what caught his attention was the Revolution Series HB, with Renishaw’s five-axis PH20 probe head, from Advanced Industrial Measurement Systems (AIMS Metrology) in Miamisburg, Ohio. “The machine was locally built,” he said. “That was important. The other [CMM provider] had a large corporate feel. I didn’t think I would get the same level of service that I would from AIMS. That was also important to us.”
Honda Transmission put the HB to work checking the location of holes reamed and drilled in a transmission case. “Access to data allowed us to make adjustments before the part was no good and had to be scrapped,” said Sokolow. “We were able to eliminate the need for gages and improve best quality practices for parts production. The technology was a first step toward implementing an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) model where hardware can contribute to manufacturing processes through connectivity.”
Designed for true mobility on the production floor, the five-axis HB CMM has a polymer cast base that includes vibration resistance and thermal stability. The CMM manages information flow in real time while the PH20’s “head touches” collect data by moving the head only, instead of the machine, which means high-density measurement points for feature size, location and form can be taken faster with higher accuracy and repeatability. The hard bearing equipment doesn’t require air and can be moved onto the shop floor to gather data at point of use.
When Honda Transmission reached volume capacity on the HB, the idea of a larger machine began to take shape.
“We had some sizable parts coming online and we needed extra room to accommodate a robot head and gripper so that we could automate inspection,” Sokolow said. “But the machine didn’t exist in the marketplace. That’s when we began talking with AIMS about building a bigger CMM.”
The automotive supplier is installing a new production line that requires 100 percent part inspection. “We’ll be measuring two knock holes before adding the rest of the holes on the transmission case,” Sokolow said. “It’s a critical measurement because the location of these knock holes dictates the location of the rest of the features that will be processed on the case during downstream operations. We will be inspecting every hole for every part, something we haven’t done before.”
In response, AIMS Metrology began developing the new Summit 10.10.10 CMM. Mapping out the new Summit design to meet Honda’s specifications presented AIMS with some hurdles. “It’s been challenging from the standpoint that there is nothing like this in the industry,” said Mark Gearding, vice president of AIMS. “There are no benchmarks to look at.”
The hardware needed to have an X, Y and Z axis of 1,000 mm each (1 m³ capacity). A major departure from AIMS’ standard HB was Honda Transmission’s request for REVO-2, a Renishaw five-axis dynamic scanning probe typically reserved for AIMS’ lab-grade LM. REVO-2 provides measuring speeds up to 500 mm/sec and data collection rates of up to 4,000 points/sec for increased part throughput. In addition to infinite positioning, REVO-2’s latest sensors—RVP vision and SFP2 surface measurement—enhance high-volume, large-parts inspection.
“We knew we had to stiffen the Z axis to support the REVO-2 probe head, though,” said AIMS President Dave Delph. “We also had to consider what we would do to make the structure more robust. We wanted to incorporate linear motors because they are the most reliable drive systems in the industry since there are no moving parts. A polymer base offers the best vibration isolation for the shop floor. We added temperature compensation to account for environmental changes that could affect accuracy.”
Because it provides workpiece weight capacity of 2,200 kg, the Summit won’t be mobile like its smaller cousin, the HB. But the automotive OEM won’t lose valuable real estate because the CMMs have been built to conserve space. “We’ve ordered two Summits—one for one-to-one knock hole inspection on our new line and a second machine to measure less critical hole features [one out of every 30 parts] at the end of our line. We’re also getting an AIMS lab-grade, five-axis LM that we’ll use to inspect part models on all six lines.”
The Summit can work with a robot load/unload system or different types of pass-through processes that use conveyors. The CMM can also be equipped with automatic adjustment for tool wear. AIMS built four new machines so that it could keep two Summits for testing, demonstration and commercialization. The machines will run on MODUS software.
“The ability to collect data will also give us part traceability,” Sokolow noted. “We put 30 parts to a skid. We’ll measure one part per skid. We’ll be able to confirm that parts are in transit and if we need to locate parts on a specific skid, data collection will make that easy.”
Honda Transmission is building a new CMM laboratory and putting the finishing touches on its production lines. Installation is expected to be completed sometime this year. “It was a joint venture between our two companies to give Honda the best possible solution to meet their needs,” said Delph. “Our philosophy from the beginning has been to form partnerships with companies. We didn’t want to go from customer to customer. We wanted to develop relationships where we could evolve with our customers.”