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Robotic Paint Inspection System Uses Terahertz Technology

The Volkswagen Group has elected to use das-Nano technology to measure the layer thickness of its car body coatings. The competitiveness in the automotive sector is very high and therefore it requires the most exigent in-line quality control processes. However, the current worldwide used quality control methods for car body coating thickness measurement presents several flaws that have been addressed with a new technology.

Patented Terahertz Waves Technology 

das-Nano has solved the challenge thanks to the Irys system, a patented non-contact system that, using terahertz waves and proprietary algorithms developed by das-Nano, measures the thickness of each coating layer of a car body in a non-destructive way.

The main advantage of this system is the ability to provide the vehicle manufacturer with information, hitherto unavailable, of its painting process, and propose a 15% saving in the cost of the process thanks to the reduction of materials, energy and defective pieces, with the corresponding environmental impact reduction.

The das-Nano system allows fast and non-contact inspection of materials:

– Real-time thickness measurements of each applied paint and clear coat layer (wet, dry and cured), are obtained, providing the customer with a more reliable painting process and early detection of defects
– The system is fully automated and features a self-calibration system that requires no calibration stops
– Applicable to any type of substrate: metallic, polymeric, composite, etc. and also on flat and curved surfaces, with an accuracy of 1 micron

“Terahertz technology brings a new light for the industry, and in the automotive sector, in particular, is setting the global standard on quality control for body coatings”, explains Eduardo Azanza, co-founder and CEO of das-Nano.

das-Nano’s THz technology has been chosen after an international tender by Volkswagen, for the world’s first installation of the paint thickness inspection system at Volkswagen Navarra’s facilities. Irys has successfully been in full operation since July 2020, 24/7.

The automotive industry will continue to rely on these new inspection technologies for the painting processes, not only for the direct benefits of their application but also for the significant environmental impact reduction. Thanks to one single Irys system, 50 kWh/car can be reduced in the painting process, which implies more than 16 GWh/year in a main car manufacturing plant such as VW Navarra: a reduction in CO2 emissions higher than 7,000 CO2 ton/year!

“It offers high spatial resolution below the millimeter, down to the micron unit, can pass through most materials that have low electrical conductivity, and are low-energy waves, harmless to humans,” explains Israel Arnedo, Terahertz Business Unit Director at das-Nano.

Pioneering Use of Terahertz Technology

Terahertz technology has been known since the beginning of the 20th century. Still, its application was not possible until three decades ago due to the lack of material means for correctly generating and detecting these waves.

Terahertz waves have a high potential to transform the state of the art of today’s technology, just as X-rays, infrared waves or microwaves have had in the past. Their distinctive feature is their ability to penetrate through most dielectric materials (such as plastics, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, insulation, textiles, or wood), which opens up a world of possibilities for nondestructive testing (NDT).

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