Close inspection of vehicle components

VISION 2014: Machine vision systems ensure additional safety and the highest quality inspections of components in automotive production

"Machine vision is the key in the automotive industry to automate many applications. With machine vision the quality can be standardised in all production plants for entire product lines. Furthermore, the quantity costs can be reduced considerably with machine vision", according to the experience of Nicole Rüffer, Senior Marketing Manager at Isra Vision AG. Camera systems with corresponding software also help increase the safety of vehicles by performing checks during production such as on steering components or brakes. This clarifies how important machine vision systems have become for vehicle production. VISION 2014 in Stuttgart, the leading world trade fair for machine vision, will also reflect this. This autumn from 4 to 6 November around 400 exhibitors will showcase the latest trends, technologies and components such as cameras, framegrabbers, lighting systems, optics, software, complete solutions, as well as specific applications related to machine vision.

The target groups of VISION include not only the automotive industry and suppliers, but also mechanical engineering, precision engineering, optics, electrotechnology and electronics industry, semiconductor production, printing industry, glass processing, wood industry, pharmaceutical, chemicals and food industry, and several more. And many non-industrial industries such as the medical device industry, traffic, security, agriculture, as well as advertising and sport, have in the meantime discovered machine vision for themselves. The range of applications of machine vision systems is thus constantly growing and also the visitor target groups of the world's unique exhibition and information platform VISION. "With the new two-year frequency, VISION 2014 will become even more comprehensive and attractive than before", states Florian Niethammer, Project Manager of VISION at Messe Stuttgart.

Full inspection and traceability are extremely important

"The automotive industry, including suppliers, has always been an important application area for machine vision - the trend is growing", states Jean-Philippe Roman, Manager, Corporate Marketing at Allied Vision Technologies GmbH. "The reason for this", Roman adds, "is that this industry is under acute cost pressure, and at the same time must meet very high quality requirements. Automated quality inspection systems with an integral visual inspection are often the solution here to reconcile the two." Vehicle components which are relevant to safety may endanger human life, if they are faulty or malfunction. "This is why a random inspection is not sufficient", argues Roman, "a full inspection must be carried out and traceability guaranteed. Machine vision systems are designed precisely for such tasks."

According to Heinz Haaf, Key Account Manager for Automotive at Stemmer Imaging GmbH, a distinction must be made between two areas when using machine vision systems in the automotive industry: firstly, the proper production environment in which vehicle components are produced in large quantities. "In this area", adds Haaf, "machine vision systems must, above all, be robust and safe, as well as easy to operate and repair. As a result, compact smart systems are often used here." Michael Noffz, Marketing Manager at Silicon Software GmbH, adds: "And in the robotics area considerable speed potential is possible, in particular by greater independence of the robot or also in cooperation with people in a common work area." Sensor technology, primarily on a visual basis, plays an important role here.

Haaf mentions the environment accompanying production as the second area, for example research and development departments: "Here high-end machine vision systems are often used to check the quality of pre-series parts or to test new production methods." "Convenience systems in the car which also include visual functions are also becoming more and more important, for example parking assistants", states Noffz.

Up to now the automotive industry has always played a pioneering role when it comes to implementing the latest innovations in the manufacturing process, also those of the machine vision industry. Some exhibitors of VISION 2014 will be representative of what machine vision can achieve today in automated vehicle production and will show that it contributes to more efficient and economical production processes and enhanced quality.

Searching for errors on new paintwork of cars becomes fully automated for the first time

"In spite of the high personnel effort, searching for errors on painted surfaces of vehicles to date has delivered unsatisfactory results", reports Rüffer. Up to now at the end of a highly automated bodywork painting experienced employees assess certain segments of the body. "Although they have years of experience and trained eyes", continues Rüffer, "the tests are subjective and the results are not very consistent. Sometimes errors are missed, which can lead to expensive reworking." Isra Vision developed an elaborate camera system with corresponding evaluation logic called 'Car paint Vision'. During the inspection the body runs through a station with four robots and the corresponding test systems which scan the surface in a single process. The high-resolution cameras detect all relevant topological and high-contrast colour defects. Dust particles, scratches, pinpricks, drops, paint runs, and orange-peel effect are reliably located and their coordinates are stored. "Surface defects are now completely reproducible and can be found based on their company-specific definitions", states Rüffer "and the employees can concentrate on eliminating the fault instead of the tedious visual inspection."

Visual inspection of a large variety of commercial vehicle brakes

Brakes are sometimes the most important component of a vehicle; a fact which every driver can understand. Stemmer Imaging, VISION exhibitor since the very start, supplied a machine vision system for the low-volume production range at Knorr-Bremse, where brake systems are manufactured for commercial vehicles, which checks whether the brakes are correctly fitted. Three cameras from Allied Vision Technologies with Schneider optics, as well as two line lasers from Z-Laser, together with the machine vision software Sherlock from Teledyne Dalsa, are used. Within milliseconds the software calculates whether the disc brake is assembled according to the parts list and the assembly specifications. Zero-error tolerance is top priority. The company manufactures a large variety of brake systems in this production line, for buses as well as for heavy articulated lorries - 1,200 brake variants in combination with 64 different inspection characteristics. "The challenge of the project also lay in this variety", states Haaf.

Robots are becoming more independent

At a multinational Asian car manufacturer robots search for bore holes for riveting or screwing components. "In order to remain competitive in this area", reports Noffz, "a new solution should be found which is ten times faster than the ones available to date." With the hardware-based implementation of a programmed FPGA framegrabber from Silicon Software, these requirements were able to be satisfied within a short period of time. Noffz summarises: "The application shows where the potential lies in automotive production in the area of robotics, if the processes become more intelligent and independent."

Accurate fitting of doors

Robots are also put to use when it comes to the precise assembly of attachment parts such as doors. Thanks to sensors the dimensions for the gap and transition for each door manufactured, as well as the cut-out in the side panel of the vehicle, can be determined and the optimal position calculated for the installation of the door. The assembly robot accurately controls this position and installs the door with a high-quality result. This intelligent sensor, which includes a digital camera from Allied Vision Technologies (AVT), was developed by EDAG in conjunction with AVT. A special feature of the system is that it learns, and thus independently controls the setting behaviour with the assembly process. "With help of machine vision robot systems are becoming more intelligent and adaptable", states Roman. And camera systems are being used in many other quality inspection tasks, such as for the inspection of airbag cartridges, the 3D geometry check of fuel and brake fluid lines or the fitting inspection.

"The engineers in the automotive sector are impressed with the performance of the current machine vision systems and see the potential for the next generation of manufacturing systems, in which this technology will also play an increasingly important role", sums up Haaf. Future technologies will be characterised by even more intelligence and independence. Sensors such as camera systems are needed here as eyes, which are able to detect, transfer, process and analyse images in high resolution and at a rapid pace.

Key global information and presentation platform

The leading world trade fair VISION will present these latest technologies. With the changeover to the two-year frequency, even more exhibitors and innovations are expected, which will make VISION even more relevant and important for visitors. Since it started out over 25 years ago VISION has become part of the machine vision industry and grown with it. A top-quality framework programme of VISION 2014 will also ensure that visitors and exhibitors can refresh their knowledge, find suggestions for new ideas and solutions and establish valuable contacts.

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