Zero-defect production: pipedream or possibility?

19 March 2018

Zero-defect production must surely be the ultimate goal of every manufacturer. Control Engineering Europe finds out what role RFID technology has in bringing this closer reality. 

The automotive industry has always been a leading force when it comes to efficient manufacturing processes and quality control. Over the years RFID technology has been a key part of the automotive production process and continues to play a vital role in successful Industry 4.0 projects. 

A good example of RFID utilisation is in vehicle customisation. In addition to a vast range of paint and interior fabric colour options now being available, a host of other options such as in-car entertainment systems, sunroofs and tinted glass can be specified.  Details of these features, selected at the time of ordering, are added to an RFID tag which is mounted on the chassis or engine of the vehicle being produced.  The tag communicates with the production line system which then drives its processes to add individual customer specific features as the car is built. The essence of mass-production is maintained, with minimal interruption, but at the same time meeting the individual demands of the customer. This clearly demonstrates clearly the basic principles of Industry 4.0 in practice.

Zero-defect production can only ever be fully realised by eliminating all potential sources of error – maybe with total automation which removes all manual processes and the potential source of errors that accompany them. One example of this can be found before a new car leaves production. It is checked for water ingress at multiple points throughout the bodywork. For this process it is exposed to different situations in a sprinkler chamber that simulates rain, water splashes and car wash facilities. Next, moisture checks are carried out to determine any ingress. However, these are manual inspection methods so cannot offer total, error- free, assurance. Quite commonly, moisture collects in areas that are impossible to see.

To overcome the problem of moisture detection and working in close co-operation with a leading car manufacturer, Turck designed a fully automated solution for moisture sensing based on RFID.

"The system utilises ultra high frequency (UHF) RFID technology and detects all moisture ingress in car bodies without the need for any manual intervention,” explained George Perkins, marketing executive at Turck Banner. In order to achieve this, the car body is fitted with tags at convenient stages throughout production. These tags react to humidity, even in concealed places. “Before the car is driven into the rain spray chamber as part of the final inspection, it goes through an RFID gate which registers all the RFID tags. After the spray process, the car goes through a second RFID gate at the exit which reads all the RFID tags again. If humidity has penetrated at any point the system detects a discrepancy between both read operations and sends an appropriate fault message to the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) of the user. This means that any affected car bodies can thus be removed directly and investigated. This system offers 100% detection of faulty vehicles, maintaining brand confidence and eliminating the need for costly aftercare,” continued Perkins.

"Innovations and refinements of the smart factory concept are evolving daily as system designers and engineers strive to give manufacturing the ultimate system. RFID technology – which has proven to be vital so far – will continue to play a vital part in Industry 4.0,” concluded Perkins.

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