QMT Features: January 2011
Automated inspection of F1 piston rings
Rings manufactured to extremely accurate tolerances for Formula 1 applications originally  relied on highly labour intensive inspection and costly external contract measurements

An established automotive supplier in Lower Saxony, Germany, expert in the manufacture of a range of combustion engine components,  set out to automate their process for the manufacture and test of the U-Flex piston ring.  These rings, manufactured to extremely accurate tolerances for Formula 1 applications,  relied on highly labour intensive inspection and costly external contract measurements.

Since the marketplace did not seem to offer a single measuring machine capable of carrying out a full inspection of the U-Flex Piston rings, the company  approached Schneider Messtechnik who have a long history in optical measurement systems and bespoke developments.  The result of this project was a special design solution based on Schneiders VideoCAD system.

VideoCAD is a video measuring device enabling fast and accurate measurement of two dimensional geometries over a large image field.  The high resolution optics of the system ensure distortion-free measurement with calibrated measuring ranges that are determined by the camera/objective combination.  VideoCAD has two outstanding features which were key to this project:: its unsurpassed measuring speed, which allows measured data to be recorded and analysed in a matter of seconds, as well as the monochrome ultra-high-definition camera,  affording resolutions in the micron range. 

The solution comprised two modules: Module 1 used the combined powers of VideoCAD and Schneiders Saphir software.  This software was also linked into Module 2 which was equipped with a Siemens standard control unit.  Although the two modules perform different measurement tasks they work together as a team.  Module 1 is based on the standard VideoCAD and Module 2 is a customised design with special cameras.

The two modules are now in full use for the final inspection and packing of the U-Flex rings, following a fixed routine which is smoothly integrated into the manufacturing  process.  The rings are stacked in a column and transferred to the measurement area by means of a slide.  Module 1 then measures the wall thickness of each ring, outside diameter and every single ring segment – with an accuracy of +/-2.5 micron.  The components are then transferred to Module 2 where the rings face widths are measured in cross section and form deviations of individual segments are accurately determined.  This is performed with the help of several cameras to an accuracy of +/-2 micron.  Finally the rings are stacked in piles of 85 equally aligned items each, over a cardboard shipping tube ready for transport to the customer. 

All processes between loading Module 1 and removing the packed items are fully automated – every four minutes the system thoroughly inspects one U-Flex ring, discarding rejects with unerring reliability.  Another significant factor is that the system provides consistent documentation of all measurement results – another important step to meeting the stringent demands of the automotive industry.


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