Automated Optical Inspection of Automotive Components

At its plant in Louny, Spain, Gestamp manufacturers more than 230 different body-in-white parts for a total of 13 OEMs.

The Challenge: To Monitor Production Processes

One particular reason for this success is the company’s ability to master tailored tempering, a particularly tricky hot stamping process. Since the tools wear out more quickly with hot stamping than with cold, new molds must be created and the old ones replaced more frequently. In order to detect potential exceeded tolerances in plenty of time, Gestamp wanted to measure significantly more parts. Everyone involved agreed that the company’s goal of inspecting 33,500 parts per year would simply not be possible with the existing coordinate measuring machine. Moreover, Gestamp also wanted to use Big Data analyses for making important manufacturing decisions: “This meant that we would have to acquire, store and analyze more quality data,” says Ignacio Fernández Landa, Senior Engineer for Process Control Systems and Quality at Gestamp.

The big challenge was to find a system that could measure the parts more quickly while still being extremely accurate. Even though Gestamp did not specify a preference for a particular measuring technique when describing what they required, Raphael Putseys, Global Key Account Manager at ZEISS, understood quite quickly that “as an optical system, the ZEISS AIBox would fit in perfectly along the production line. With the assistance of an interdisciplinary team in Oberkochen, we developed a comprehensive proposal,” says Putseys. This impressed the decision makers at Gestamp. After comparing offers from competitors, the company decided to purchase the entire ZEISS package: a ZEISS AIBox with the ZEISS COMET Automated optical sensor, ZEISS PiWeb data management software, the ZEISS fixturing system with a feeding solution and multi-week on-site support to get the system up and running.

The Benefit: Quick Data Generation

Since the beginning of 2017, the ZEISS AIBox has been in operation at the plant in Louny, checking up to 500 characteristics on a component with great precision and all within 10 to 15 minutes. “Without the ZEISS system, we would have needed at least three contact measuring machines to perform the same tasks,” says Michal Pelc, Vision Expert at Gestamp in Louny. To ensure optimum customer satisfaction, ZEISS developed a solution with a small footprint that significantly accelerated ZEISS AIBox loading. Here the modular ZEISS fixture systems come into play. These are stored in a storage unit around five meters in height. “Without this loading system, we would have needed to expand the assembly area,” says Fernández Landa.

Gestamp now generates a large quantity of data which is then statistically processed using ZEISS PiWeb. “To take one example, we are currently able to determine when our pressing tools need to be replaced earlier than before,” says Fernández Landa. “By offering a complete package, ZEISS was able to impress Gestamp management in Spain as a one-stop shop,” says Putseys.

“This technology presents an enormous opportunity for us to combine car safety with climate protection goals” states Ignacio Fernández Landa, an engineer at Gestamp. The ZEISS COMET automated sensor uses innovative LED illumination and provides the necessary, highly precise measuring results, allowing Gestamp to ensure that it maintains the required tolerance of +/– 0.3 mm for several components.

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