In order to stay competitive automotive plants have to ensure their manufacturing processes are lean. Today, many automotive manufacturers are achieving this goal by introducing multi-model assembly lines capable of handling a wide range of different vehicle types—rather than being limited to just one model.
The aim of multi-model production is to increase productivity and profitability through a more efficient use of time, floorspace, and resources. Multi-model production lines offer a powerful alternative to batch production because they allow the factory to produce vehicles according to specific consumer demand and specifications.
Such a system has to be highly flexible in order to work properly, with specialized cells executing an array of tasks, at a high degree of accuracy and repeatability, to ensure each vehicle model is assembled on-time and to specification. This process involves complex robotic setups and the use of 3D sensors for 100% quality control that can match the production line’s dynamic design.
The Role of 3D Smart Sensors
On a traditional production line where only one model of product is being produced, 3D sensors used for quality control purposes can be fixed solutions with no ability to adapt to task variation.
In a multi-model production line, however, the 3D sensor has to be much more agile—and this is where next generation 3D smart sensors play a critical role. For one, smart sensors can be “reprogrammed” on-the-fly by loading different “job” files that correspond to each product model. A job file contains the specific configurations for taking measurements, setting exposures, and setting pass/fail criteria.
3D smart sensors can also adapt to changing inspection requirements because they are connected to the factory network, and can be updated with new firmware to measure new product features. New firmware can introduce custom measurement tools developed by the process engineering group overseeing the factory environment so that a new process or part gets the right inspection.
3D smart sensors are ideal for scanning parts in motion or attached to robots for flexible measurement and/or guidance. Their embedded support for interfacing to PLCs or robots support an all-in-one sequence of 3D scanning, measurement and decision communication, without the added cost or complexity of wiring and mounting external controllers or requiring proprietary PC solutions.
This smart design and flexibility enables a fully functional multi-model production line to work at a much faster, more efficient pace than traditional assembly lines, while continuing to deliver the highest standards of vehicle safety and quality.
Think of it this way. The same 3D smart sensors that are used for measuring the features on a door panel can be used for gap and flush inspection, and the changeover can be achieved seamlessly with little to no downtime or system disruption.
It’s a simple yet powerful innovation that is already advancing factories around the world toward leaner production.
Down the Line: Where is Factory Production Headed?
The trend toward multi-model production is expanding beyond automotive into many other manufacturing environments (especially consumer electronics), which means 3D smart sensors will continue to adapt and offer unique benefits to the customer and their individual manufacturing systems.