Process Control Improves Manufacturing PracticesMon, 09/01/2014 - 14:10
The automotive industry and its manufacturing practices have gone from bulky and unrefined to complex and concise. Alejandro Silva, Director General of Renishaw Mexico believes this evolution stems from the OEMs’ increasing presence in Mexico that has pushed Tier 1 and 2 companies to ramp up their performance. As a global company with core skills in metrology, motion control, and precision machining, Renishaw has flourished under this change. “In the first year the company experienced a growth of 45-50% and for our second year the expected growth is approximately 25%,” Silva explains. As the automotive industry is driven by innovation, one of the new technological arrivals to Mexican shores is additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing. Renishaw’s additive manufacturing technologies encompass laser melting and injection molding technologies. The laser melting process is an emerging technology with a presence in the healthcare industry as well as the aerospace and high electronics sectors. This technology is a digitally driven manufacturing process that uses laser energy to fuse metallic powders into 3D objects. “Renishaw has recently introduced a 3D printing system to Mexico, which utilizes metal to create new body forms for either prototypes or assembly manufacturing,” Silva explains. This process is especially applicable to the automotive industry since it helps the creation of designs that were impossible in the past. This is important since laser melting significantly lessens the constraints on design.
The demand for excellence is seen in the rising demand for metrology. “OEMs are requiring 100% inspection of parts, and every part has to be measured for 10 to 20 features, depending on the component,” Silva comments. Some components go through more thorough revisions like engine blocks or suspension cases and it can be very time consuming. “If all production has to be evaluated and there are several CNC machines producing these parts, a huge bottleneck is created in the CMM Inspection Lab, which slows down production,” says Silva. “In response to this, Renishaw has created a revolutionary product designed to maximize the CMM throughput while maintaining high system accuracy. Revo is a dynamic five axis measuring head and probe system which can measure much faster than any other system. This is achieved by allowing the REVO head to carry out the measurement motions while the CMM machine moves in its linear fashion.” The automotive industry adopts any practical innovation that will reduce costs, reduce scrapping, and increase efficiency and leanness in processes. “Having a full understanding of the process control mechanisms can benefit customers by reducing scrap and operation time,” says Silva. “Companies can fully automate the process and remain confident about the quality of the components. The successful application of this technology is embodied in Renishaw’s manufacturing site in the UK, where operations are carried out 24/7 and are unmanned. There are about three or four workers running 20 machines and the products meet the defined tolerances complying with quality standards,” Silva comments. “Process control minimizes labor force size and reduces bottlenecks and scrapping to almost zero.”
Renishaw has identified that in more developed markets there is a higher incidence of these developed products. “Transnational companies are more likely to adopt these methods in Mexico, where new Tier 1 and 2 arrivals are already entering with the machinery and technology in place,” says Silva. However, as the innovation race continues, Mexican based Tier 1 and 2 companies must also step up their game. “Renishaw is working on educating these companies about the benefits of these systems and how the technology works,” Silva explains. “Some companies have the false perception that faster CNC machines and cutting tools improve production time, but if the part that comes out is in bad shape and does not meet quality standards, then it is a complete waste. Technology can represent a big expense for companies, but the processes are top quality and the return in investment is significant. If companies can reduce their production costs by 25%, it entails large savings.” Renishaw has been able to reduce costs by over US$500,000 in just scrapping. The system only costs a fraction of this and it is the only existing tool that can control scrapping.” With OEMs demanding more from their suppliers, companies are looking for alternatives that will maintain quality, and probing systems have proven to be the heart of machines, and as Silva states: “Probing solutions in machine tool and CMM is the foundation for a successful manufacturing process.”