Renault applies Flir camera across testing centre

21 July 2008

At the Renault ‘Technocentre’, on the outskirts of Paris, all parts and components used for car assembling are subjected to rigorous testing.

In the Material Engineering Department, 400 engineers and technicians also work to analyse components of cars crashed in accidents.

For its latest series of Modus, Clio, Mégane, Laguna and Espace car models, Renault has designed and developed fenders made from a plastic component, reducing weight and corrosion. These fenders are formed by injection moulding.

The equal distribution of temperatures and uniform cooling, a precondition to a stable quality of these large and geometrically specific parts, proved to be a challenge. As the fenders coming out of the mould cool down, rather slowly, and their emissivity remains at a steady 0.9, the infrared camera could be used to visualise the cooling process right after the moulding.

This way, the camera visualised problems which were not taken into account by the modelling of fenders, in particular at the extremities of the fender. The thermographic evidence enabled the engineers to adjust variables such as flow volume regulation and the mould’s cooling cycle, adapting them to the specific, difficult geometric forms of the piece.

In addition, the infrared measurements allowed Renault to better asses and calculate the impact of sunlight and sun heat on the fenders. In a particular case, consistent thermographic surveying of the prototypes eventually resulted into a design modification of the fender, saving modelling and wind tunnel costs.

Thermal imaging proved itself as a viable and cost effective method to indicate the thermodynamic performance of tooling and to optimise the cooling cycle of complex parts and components for the automotive industry.

Renault also uses a Flir ThermaCAM S65 to check quality when visiting suppliers.

‘Before the company steps into a huge purchase and delivery agreement for automotive parts we examine the supplier’s product and manufacturing process as thoroughly as possible,’ said Jean-Baptise Blumenfeld, validation technician and infrared camera expert at the Technocentre.

‘An infrared camera is the perfect instrument to assess the welding quality of plastic parts and components. And the ThermaCAM S65 weight of 2kg and its easy handling enables us to visit suppliers worldwide and check their product and manufacturing quality on site,’ added Blumenfeld.

The Flir infrared camera is also used in the engine test bed.

New engines are put to trial for heat build-up and distribution, determination of the failure point and in order to examine their running under extreme load conditions. The camera’s 50/60 Hz real-time digital recording and video and Firewire connectivity enables detailed and long-term observations, while the ThermaCAM Researcher software offers all relevant measurement functions to analyse the results.

The ThermaCAM S65 is kept busy at the Renault facility.

‘Either various departments here at the Technocentre request our direct intervention as material validation thermographers, or we actually become part of a project,’ said Blumenfeld.

‘And then there’s the ad hoc calls: occasional checks, even at the production line to see if welding seams meet the required criteria.’

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