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Post-Process Measuring Challenges In Changing Automotive Industry

During the run-up to the now cancelled Control 2020 trade fair, Peter Mösle, Head of Sales of the Measuring Machines business division at Blum-Novotest, spoke about current challenges around post-process measuring technology and the structural change in the automotive and supplier industry.

Q: Blum-Novotest has manufactured post-process measuring machines for the automotive industry since 1983. How have the market requirements changed since then?

A: Our measuring machines are part of the production lines, so changes in the machining centers often impact our area of responsibility directly. In particular, the continuous reduction in cycle times, but also the ever-decreasing tolerances are challenges that we must solve. Where workshop drawings previously specified tenths or at most a few hundredths of a millimetre, today’s requirements are in the single-digit micron range. Another key aspect is repeatability, which means the ability to investigate the 5th or 5000th workpiece in a reproducible manner. Ultimately, all these measured results must also be documented with a link to the workpiece. Alongside these technical requirements, there is the need for high flexibility in terms of type diversity as well as a long and functionally reliable service life – all at the lowest possible purchase price. The advent of electric mobility means that the deck is being reshuffled…

Q: How does electric mobility influence the requirements placed on your post-process measuring machines? 

A: Electric mobility generally results in a substantially lower number of parts. Whereas combustion engines can consist of 1,200 to 2,500 individual parts, electric drives frequently require roughly a mere 10% of this number. Camshafts are a good example of this change: In recent years, they were developed from forged or turned components into what are called “assembled shafts”. With electric mobility, the shaft is retained as part of the rotor – without the cams but with other ultra-high-precision features that must be tested and evaluated. Even our most frequently delivered machines, brake disc measuring machines, must cater to changing requirements. As a consequence of the development of these components, we are confronted with innovative material combinations, coatings or evaluation features for which we have already delivered customer-specific solutions to expand our modular machine concepts.

Q: Your measuring machines are critical pieces in the closed control loop jigsaw. What tasks does a brake disc measuring machine perform? 

A: In addition to purely geometric properties such as length, height, diameter, etc., shape and position features are very important nowadays. The circular shape of diameters, run-outs to reference axes or surfaces and, especially for the brake disc, the dynamic thickness variation (DTV) of the friction ring, are much more frequently required today than in the past. For several years now, the measuring machine has also been required to cover and document crack detection, natural frequency testing or the testing of special coatings on the friction ring of the brake disc. The correction interface to provide feedback to the production machine in a closed control loop – currently a buzzword in the context of Industry 4.0 – has long since been an available standard at Blum-Novotest. This transforms the measuring machine from an individual station to a dedicated but fully networked system in the production line.


Q: What role does the measuring and evaluation software M4P unveiled last year play in this context? 

A: The software allows for quick and effective realisation of the requirements alluded to above. For instance, precision with repeatability can only be realized by high resolution and scanning rates. What’s more, M4P streamlines the integration in the line automation or machine tool with the help of different interfaces.
Q: What advantages does M4P offer the user?
The individually configurable views during operation – including swift analysis of live data – have impressed customers who are already familiar with the measurement and evaluation software. The intuitive user interface also allows operators with the corresponding authorization levels to edit existing programs or create new programs quickly. The functions we have implemented for determining measurement uncertainty quickly, the parameter-based data output of K fields in QDAS format and especially the AQDEF function ensure that the requirements of the automotive sector are fully met.
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