Ford to invest $100 million in robotic laser inspection technology

June 6, 2011
Dearborn, MI--Robotic laser inspection technology that reduces wind noise is being rolled out globally as part of Ford's quality initiative to lead the industry in customer satisfaction.

Dearborn, MI--Robotic laser inspection technology that reduces wind noise through improved fitting of car-door panels is being rolled out globally as part of Ford's next phase of its quality initiative to lead the industry in customer satisfaction. Ford Motor Company, which is also investigating other photonic-based automobile improvements, is investing $100 million to install robotic plant laser inspection to improve assembly of the 2012 Ford Focus at the Michigan Assembly Plant and the Saarlouis, Germany Plant, and the Ford Explorer at the Chicago Assembly Plant.

"Ford’s robotic laser technology gives us a degree of precision like never before," said Ron Ketelhut, chief engineer, Body Construction Engineering. "The vision technologies verify the dimensions of interfaces on the vehicle’s body in a highly accurate way, to a tenth of a millimeter." Go to http://media.ford.com/login.cfm?path_info=/article_display.cfm?article_id=34721 to register and see video on Ford’s robotic laser inspection technology.

The technology helps ensure car door panels fit more accurately and reduce wind noise, a key quality factor for consumers and a major industry challenge. The laser and camera systems that are major upgrades to plant robots were developed in collaboration with minority business partner Gonzalez Production Systems, and significantly improve the robustness of the overall manufacturing process.

The technology builds on laser-guided, end-of-line robotic technology pioneered by Ford’s European team to measure points on each vehicle as it moves past the line to verify build quality. The robots are programmed to recognize any minute deviations from the correct specification and, if any errors are found, instruct the operator on the correct course of action. Ford first used the system in Germany and, after seeing quality gains, quickly rolled it out to plants around the world.

The laser vision technology also is being upgraded on the robots to help confirm the door quality margins once installed. The robots are even empowered to shut down the assembly line if the cameras detect a door does not fit Ford’s exacting quality measurements. Human error is also reduced, as the machines are tuned to measure point specifications on the vehicle, whereas previously it was determined by an operator making a subjective judgment on whether it was accurate.

SOURCE: Ford Motor Corporation; http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=34721

Posted by:Gail OvertonSubscribe now to Laser Focus World magazine; It’s free! Follow us on TwitterFollow OptoIQ on your iPhone. Download the free App here

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