Edited by Bruce Walton
When it opened its Wrzesnia, Poland, plant in late 2016 – less than two years after launching construction – Volkswagen (VW) had two goals: build VW Crafter delivery vans and push automotive manufacturing technology limits.
“The plant in Wrzesnia is a role model for European transporter construction – state-of-the-art technology yet environmentally efficient at the same time,” plant CEO Jens Ocksen explains.
Configurable vehicle bodies and equipment variants are key to commercial vans, so VW officials planned for 70% of Crafter production to be made-to-measure solutions, requiring extensive automation at the plant. To implement the wide range of variants and individual orders, 430 robots carry out 68% of welding and gluing procedures in the body shop as well as material transport tasks. The automation level in the paint shop is 65%.
Quality assurance challenge
Given the 1,100 equipment variants of VW Crafters that can be configured, the range of parts to be measured is vast: underbody, front end, closed and open bodies, single-cab, double-cab, etc. To accommodate high-volumes of parts and vehicles requiring measurement, VW plant designers built a 58,000ft2 (5,400m2) measuring hall, integrated into the body manufacturing line close to production.
German metrology equipment supplier GOM, represented in North American by Capture 3D, has several systems in the facility – two Series 6 ATOS ScanBox systems, three double robot measuring cells, and several mobile optical measuring machines. The machines inspect assembly modules and body shells through to completely painted bodies. Everything is designed for measuring vehicles up to 23ft (7m) long and almost 10ft (3m) tall. Optical systems offer 3D geometry checks, including border lines and hole pattern by comparing nominal and actual data.
With the variety of the components to be measured, metrology is a difficult-yet-vital task at the plant. Robot paths and sensor positions need be calculated automatically and independently from the user and not block running measuring cells.
GOM software tools, such as virtual measuring room (VMR) and auto teaching, support high measurement volumes for VW. In the VMR, components, sensors, measuring cells, and kinematics are simulated so paths and positions of the robot and the sensor can be calculated automatically. Component CAD files provide the basis for determining the measuring positions. Inspection planning can take place on a decentralized basis regardless of the measuring system. Measuring and inspection programs are stored as templates and called up by employees at measuring cell kiosks.
VW engineers refer to GOM’s measuring systems as fast runners, and they allow suppliers near the plant to measure their components in the plant’s measurement hall. Because the location in Poland was planned without a stamping plant, suppliers of pressings and add-on parts must prove part tolerance using the same systems VW uses.
In the body shop, 6 in-line Zeiss Industrial Metrology robot measuring cells check individual points, hole positions, and edges. Optical measuring results are used for process monitoring by correlating data between measurements. The systems detect unusual fluctuations but cannot perform fault analysis. Comparing process data to results from the measuring hall allows targeted conclusions about actual causes of process nonconformity.
Werner Steinert, head of measuring systems at the Wrzesnia site, says the switch from tactile measurement to optical systems allows for a more comprehensive picture of the production process.
“The optical measuring room is the measuring room of the future – for people and technology,” Steinert says. With more than 25 years of experience in automobile construction, he says the need for quality data is more important than ever, because, “Uncontrolled processes are bad processes.”
Non-contact and full-field coordinate measuring technology offers VW more information. The 3D measuring results provide effective feedback control without taking up more time for the product. They also check the function, visual appearance, and design based on dimensional accuracy, achieving exacting quality requirements.
Capture 3D Inc.
Zeiss Industrial Metrology
In a pair of July 2017 filings, regulators in California and Washington, D.C. approved fixes for older Volkswagen diesel vehicles, allowing those cars to stay on the road. Regulators also approved software fixes to emissions systems of FCA US LLC trucks, allowing that automaker to resume sales of diesel-equipped Ram pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utilities.
Emissions modifications to about 326,000 VW cars equipped with 2L diesel engines from the 2012 to 2014 model years will lower fuel economy by roughly 2mpg, but they will allow drivers to keep their cars. Drivers can also sell their vehicles back to VW as part of a $10 billion series of settlements between the automaker and regulators following the 2015 discovery of massive cheating on U.S. Clean Air Act rules.
“VW must still successfully modify thousands of earlier model vehicles, or prepare to buy them back,” says California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Officer Richard Corey.
Federal and California regulators had approved an earlier VW fix to a smaller group of vehicles in January 2017.
VW officials praised regulators for approving the software changes, saying, “This important milestone means that an approved emissions modification is now available for more than 98% of eligible 2L TDI vehicles in the United States.”
FCA officials say they have received a certificate of conformity from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a conditional executive order from CARB permitting the production and sale of 2017 model year Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles equipped with 3L diesel engines.
In January, those agencies accused FCA of cheating on emissions rules by having software lower emissions during testing but pollute far more in real-world driving – similar allegations to the crimes that VW officials confessed to in 2015. In May 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice sued FCA for alleged violations. The software changes that won FCA approval to sell 2017 diesel vehicles does not eliminate that lawsuit.
FCA officials say the software fixes for the emissions systems should have no effect on fuel economy or performance. They add that the company hopes to use a version of the fix to address concerns on 2014 to 2016 model-year diesels.
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “We appreciate the efforts of the agencies in working with us to achieve this milestone. We are anxious to build on this progress to make appropriate updates to the emissions control software in our earlier model-year vehicles.” www.arb.ca.gov; www.epa.gov; www.fcanorthamerica.com; www.justice.gov; www.vw.com
Carmakers, suppliers, and distributors recognized a trio of manufacturing equipment and service providers in June and July, noting the importance of quality partnerships in industrial production.
Bosch recognizes Chiron with Global Supplier Award — Chiron is the only manufacturer of machining centers among the prize winners from Bosch, a global supplier of turbochargers, powertrain components, and other automotive equipment. Bosch’s award recognizes performance in quality, costs, innovation, and logistics.
“This award shows that we offer high-quality, future-oriented solutions – in partnership with our customers,” says Dr. Markus Flik, CEO of the Chiron Group.
Bosch recognized 44 suppliers from 11 countries, calling them partners in success.
“Bosch’s success is based in no small part on competitiveness, innovative strength, and agility – qualities we can achieve only with fruitful international partnerships,” says Dr. Karl Nowak, president of the Bosch corporate sector for purchasing and logistics.
The recognition was Chiron’s first win of Global Supplier Award recognition and the company’s fourth win of the Bosch Preferred Supplier Award. www.chirongroup.de
MSC Industrial Supply Co. names Destaco Tooling Components Vendor of the Year — Automation, workholding, and containment solutions equipment provider Destaco won first-ever Tooling Components Vendor-of-the-Year honors from MSC Industrial Supply Co., a distributor of metalworking and maintenance, repair, and operations products and services. The award recognizes Destaco for excellence in sales performance, profitability, product innovation, marketing, field support, operational performance, and customer service in 2016.
“MSC works hard to bring deep expertise and insight to help our manufacturing customers keep their operations up and running and improve their efficiency and performance. Our supplier partners play a critical role in bringing value to customers in this way,” says Ryan Esposito, vice president of metalwork- ing product management for MSC. “The Destaco team did an outstanding job of bringing economic value to our customers.”
Stefan Eggers, Destaco’s vice president of global sales and service, adds, “In pairing our entire team with MSC’s tooling components team, we were able to work proactively and provide additional value with faster service, special product needs and local assistance, which enabled us to overcome customer support challenges quickly and effectively.” www.destaco.com; www.mscdirect.com
Honda, Toyota recognize MPW for outstanding performance — MPW Industrial Services earned Toyota’s Superior Performance Award for Services and Honda’s Performance Excellence Award, both presented in June.
MPW’s Facility & Environmental Management (FEM) division provides paint system management, maintenance, environmental, inventory, and production support services at Honda facilities in Marysville, East Liberty, and Anna, Ohio, and Greensburg, Indiana. MPW serves Toyota at the automaker’s Georgetown, Kentucky, location.
“These awards are a tribute to the more customer-driven philosophies we’ve introduced over the last couple of years. Now we’ve set a high bar for ourselves and we’re looking forward to continuing our great relationships with these customers,” says MPW FEM General Manger Kevin Sullivan. www.mpwservices.com
Maybe it was because of The Jetsons back in the early 1960s.
Animators envisioning a high-tech future with robot maids, flying cars, computer-controlled kitchens, and video conferencing stuck with an old, established technology when it came to George Jetson’s career. He worked for Spacely Space Sprockets – a company clearly in the gear-making industry, competing against their underhanded rivals, Cogswell’s Cosmic Cogs.
Sure, the show didn’t get everything right – George pressed the same button hundreds of times a day, something that clearly could have been automated with a Fanuc robot and a few lines of code – but that psychological linkage of gears with high technology never really faded.
Just look at your tablet or cell phone. Need to connect to a different WiFi network or shut off Bluetooth? You’ll have to click on the gear icon for Apple or Android systems. Microsoft began use the cog symbol to represent a computer’s settings with Windows 95. Type the word “gears” into Google, and you’ll get 344 million hits, including millions of images. These aren’t nostalgic looks into pre-Industrial Age components. Gears are the modern symbol for controlling the inner workings of cutting-edge technology, despite mobile devices generally containing no moving parts.
Pretty good for a technology that’s been around for more than 24 centuries.
Whether it was the gear systems that enabled windmills to mechanize parts of agriculture more than 1,500 years ago, geared watches and clocks that replaced looking at the sun’s position to tell time, or Industrial Revolution-era machine tools that used gear systems for power transmission, cogs and sprockets have related to human advancement for millennia.
You don’t see steam pumps getting much love from the design world these days, and I doubt many user-experience designers could even identify a pulley system. The decision to use cogs to represent computer settings was probably random; a visual designer needed something, and cogs are round and fairly easy to draw. Whoever’s decision it was, they were on to something.
Gears are highly technical, and getting more capable as cutting technologies, material science, and design tools advance. Major automakers are producing 10-speed automatic transmissions, fitting those extra gears into the same amount of space that used to house 4-to-6 speeds. Quality tolerances for gear teeth have fallen into the micron range as systems have gotten more precise.
At Gear Expo 2017 (www.gearexpo.com) in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 24-27, 2017, attendees will get to see exactly how gears have advanced. Education sessions will focus on heat-treatment techniques that enhance the performances of gear systems and instructions on how to decipher a gear quality inspection report.
If you attend, keep an eye out for George Jetson or Cosmo Spacely, and ask them why we don’t have those flying cars yet. I’m betting the answer is going to have something to do with the need to further develop gear, sprocket, and cog technologies.