An order from an international car manufacturer presented automotive supplier IAC Group with two quality inspection challenges: meeting new specifications on documentation and going live at a the new site in Romania.
The company turned to Zeiss for a complete system comprising measurement planning, programming and documentation, as well as a user-friendly measuring machine with fixture equipment and on-site service. IAC now wants to roll out the approach at other sites.
IAC manufactures systems and components for the exterior and interior of vehicles – from the bumpers to door paneling and center consoles up to dashboards, for car makers around the world. Precise documentation of quality inspection in all steps of product generation is a fact of life, but adapting the format, evaluation and display form to every customer’s requirements can be very labour intensive. It is crucial though, if you don’t adhere to the specifications you won’t be approved by the end customer. In a worst case scenario, it could threaten the continuation of the business relationship.
Roger Douven, who is responsible for purchasing the technology needed to ensure quality at IAC, says: “Every car maker has different requirements on the documentation of our measuring results.”
In 2012, when IAC won an order to design and manufacture around 100 components for a new model, including the dashboard, center console and door paneling, it had to adopt to a new requirement from the customer. Its new documentation system included a new numbering structure: a multiple-digit code for each measured point that would provide information on the position, part and vehicle type.
The designs came from the IAC’s site in Basildon, UK, and it planned to begin production in Romania in 2012 – with new employees working on new production and measuring machines at a factory near Craiova.
It was soon obvious to Roger Douven that he needed a reliable metrology partner in Romania. Ideally, he wanted a total system including a measuring machine, clamping equipment for the parts and easy-to-use measuring software with a programming function. It was also vital that the supplier could offer good support in Romania and on-site assistance in the local language if difficulties arise. And on top of this he had to consider how the documentation of the measurements could be generated in the format requested by the customer. Standard measuring software was not the solution.
The search for a partner was on. There were only a few companies able to meet this range of requirements and IAC recognised that Zeiss could meet its demands regarding the measuring machine, fixture equipment, software and service. In the months ahead, IAC transformed the order from the automotive supplier into a pilot project that takes a new approach to documentation.
In the past, IAC only generated measuring documents after the results were available and employees often had to enter these into the customer’s template by hand. It was a different process for the new project: the client required quality planning in advance with precisely defined and numbered measuring points. At each stage on the design phase the measured points had to be adapted accordingly – a considerable amount of work to carry out by hand.
With the help of Zeiss IAC implemented a way of doing this. The key difference compared to how things were done previously is that the dimensional engineers in Basildon now specify the measured points in the first draft of a product. They specify the respective tolerances and the customer-specific numbering directly in the CAD model. An add-on tool from Gigatronik enables them to enter the points in CATIA. So when IAC liaises with the customer on design changes it is easy to make changes to the measured points.
Three processes integrated
“The CAD model with the measured data is used as the basis for three processes,” explains Mr Douven. “First for the design of the clamping equipment, second for the generation of the measuring program and third for the documentation.”
The measurement fixtures are used to hold each workpiece in exactly the position it will be mounted in a car. The design and manufacture of the fixtures was carried out by the fixture specialist, Junker & Partner, a subsidiary of Zeiss. It imports the specified measured points directly into its CAD model. With this approach, the company can ensure right in the design phase that the fixtures do not get in the way of the stylus. Change loops are eliminated. Generating the measuring program – offline with CALIGO measuring software – is also based on the measured points specified in the CAD model at the start of the process. Measuring technicians save around 60 to 70 percent of the time needed for programming because they no longer have to start from the beginning.
Furthermore, the measurement point planning in the CAD model also provides the basis for documentation using Zeiss PiWeb software. After each measurement, the measuring results are automatically transferred to the central database of the documentation software. On this project the results come from a Zeiss CARMET II measuring machine but other measuring machines, e.g. for material inspection, can be connected to the system. Even measured data from external suppliers, e.g. for the grips for the glove box, are entered in the PiWeb database at IAC.
Finally, PiWeb automatically combines all of this data into standardised documents. The software can visualize deviations from the ideal form or progression of the measured data over a specific period. “I only have to enter the format desired by the customer, and then I get the data,” explains Mr Douven. Once the format has been specified, a few clicks are all that is needed to generate the customised documentation.
A model for the future
“The new system can save us time and money in the future. Once the measured points are specified in the CAD model, half of the measuring program and the majority of the documentation are finished,” continues Mr Douven.
IAC has now successfully presented the new documentation method to the customer and is convinced that it will be able to quickly and precisely meet the documentation requirements of other customers. It can also give details about the planned quality inspection measures at an early stage, which is an added bonus for the supplier.
IAC and Zeiss have made sure that all of the work tailoring the documentation system isn’t compromised at the measurement stage. With the 3D CARMET coordinate measuring machine they selected a system that was specifically developed to be user friendy. Zeiss also prepared it for the measurement process so that inexperienced users can operate the system intuitively. For example, every CARFIT fixture is given a position defined by the coordinates on the measuring table. This makes it easier for an operator to change a part because it can immediately be placed in the right position with the corresponding fixture.
“The overall package from Zeiss – with measurement planning, CALIGO measuring software, PiWeb software, the CARMET 3D coordinate measuring machines, the CARFIT fixtures and the service in Romania – is a throughly designed concept and the best choice,” says Mr Douven. “If everything continues to be as promising as it is now, we can transfer the measurement planning and documentation system to other sites.”