Automated Vehicle Parts Inspection: Improving Quality and Safety

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Throughout the manufacturing industry, automated inspection is becoming a trend for the many benefits it brings. Whether it be for consumer products, electronics, or even pharmaceuticals, some type of inspection and gauging is carried out in the manufacturing process, mostly to ensure product quality and adherence to specifications and standards.

Such inspection is traditionally carried out by humans such as technicians or supervisors. Products are screened for defects, or samples from batches are procured to verify product dimensions or features. Obviously, human limitation and errors are the undesirable consequences of relying too much on manual intervention in manufacturing assembly lines and processes.

Automated inspection solves these problems and makes product quality checks more efficient, accurate and reliable. These automated solutions usually employ tools and devices such as visual inspection cameras, laser-gauging sensors and the like. These mechanisms typically require high-tech components as well. Linear motion solutions with high-quality ball screw assembly are extensively employed in order to achieve wide range of motion for these automated machinery.

Automated inspection in the automotive industry

Perhaps nowhere is automated inspection much applied than in the automotive industry. Year after year, thousands of vehicles come out of production lines, and these products demand the strictest levels of quality control not only in terms of aesthetics, but most importantly, for safety.

There are many types of automated systems and solutions that can be utilized in the automotive industry. The most basic level involves the deployment of machine vision cameras and laser measurement sensors. These can be easily integrated into existing production assembly lines.

Another option is to utilize these devices in the context of customized enclosures. A more complicated system can be designed and developed for simple processes such as selection of rejected products and removing them from the production conveyor. There are a lot of vendors and suppliers that can design and deliver such types of customized inspection systems.

Robotics and automated machinery

More complex solutions involve highly customized machines in a turnkey automated inspection and gauging system. Multiple cameras and lasers are used for processes such as sorting products, which can be run unattended and round-the-clock. Some processes that can be carried out by these systems include material handling, reject containment, packing, labeling, and automatic feeding, among others.

The ultimate solution for automated inspection and gauging involves the use of robots, which are able to control and move the laser instruments and cameras for more detailed inspection. They can also cover more complicated and complex parts. Robots can be programmed with a range of movement with accuracy, and they can perform tasks such as loading and unloading items when equipped with the right implements such as end-of-arm grippers.

Linear motion solutions

Businesses that utilize automated inspection need to be aware of the different types of linear motion solutions, which are typically used for the translational positioning of vehicle components being inspected. Motion-driven automation control systems operate either on lead screws or ball screws. Basically, the latter uses ball bearings to eliminate sliding friction usually created in lead screws.

Lead screws are generally less expensive. They are self-locking and thus do not require a braking system. They are also usually more suited for vertical applications. However, they require greater torque and a stronger motor. As mentioned they also tend to produce greater friction and thus generate more heat. They have to be replaced more frequently.

Ball screws, on the other hand, are regarded as more efficient because they require less torque. They also create less friction and thus, function better at lower temperatures. The downside is that they are most costly, and they require a braking mechanism.

Car companies seeking automated solutions for parts inspection and quality control need to study the available options in the market very carefully, in order to arrive at the best and most relevant system for their particular needs and requirements.