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Robotic Non-Destructive Spot Weld Inspection

Strength tests on samples taken from parts consisting of 4,000-5,000 spot welds on a vehicle are an indispensable part of the automobile manufacturing process, which is costly, time and labour-intensive. Toshiba’s Inspection Solutions division has recently introduced a system that allows testing to be carried out automatically by robots in a non-destructive manner. Toshiba claim the system is poised to spark a massive manufacturing revolution in the automotive industry.

Move Towards Smart, Automated and Non-Destructive Inspection

As cars have become lighter and stronger in recent years, high-strength, high-tension materials,  are increasingly being used. The welded spots in vehicle bodies are often destroyed in the course of inspection.

Tapping on technology for medical use and power generation plants, Toshiba has developed an ultrasonic testing device known as Matrixeye, the world’s first 3D SAFT (Synthetic Aperture Focusing technique) inspection equipment with phased array function. Matrixeye allows welds to be inspected non-destructively and inspection to be performed automatically by industrial robots.

The challenge in non-destructive inspection technology was creating structures for automating spot welding inspections through robot control. The Tilt Estimation Engine is a new technology that automatically adjusts the measurement angle of the inspection probe. Based on the ultrasound reflection data measured by the Matrixeye, it estimates the tilt of the welded part and then a robot automatically corrects the angle of the inspection probe. Inspection time using the system is shrunk from 30-40 seconds to approximately 7 seconds.

Toshiba is carrying out verification tests with a goal of launching this spot welding inspection technology within the coming year, and for the technology to be also adopted in other fields of manufacturing.

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