Thinking inside the box

12 May 2009

Process Control, error detection and correction are critical parts of the automotive manufacturing process. A key aspect car manufacturers use to differentiate themselves from their competition is build quality. Up to date and accurate error detection is therefore of paramount importance.

Pivotware design and build error detection solutions for car manufacturers such as BMW, Ford and Landrover. The company approached Eurotech to help provide a solution for their customers wanting to move away from traditional PLC’s. Some companies rely on a traditional programmable logic controller (PLC) based error detection but Eurotech argues this is dated, expensive and inflexible.

SmartBox products, from Pivotware, provide automotive manufacturers visibility, traceability and the process control. SmartBoxes are rugged industrial PCs that support most production line devices providing connection and support for electrical and data devices whether connected by Ethernet, RS232, USB or general I/O. Devices supported include barcode scanners, sensors, label printers, tensors and light beacons.

Each Pivotware SmartBox incorporates a Eurotech SBC-GX1 embedded processor board enclosed in an Industrial Compact Enclosure (ICE). The SBC-GX1 board used is a 300MHz processor providing PC performance using a low power embedded fan-less design. The SBC-GX1 includes all standard PC interfaces, and a full range of multimedia features including a graphics controller capable of driving high resolution modes on CRT and TFT panel displays simultaneously, and a 16-bit Soundblaster/Pro compatible interface.

The system is a fully CE/UL compliant high performance multimedia EBS format compact enclosure running Pivotware’s application software.

Pivotware SmartBox’s are positioned throughout the manufacturing process to provide production staff with high visibility error detection. As components are added along the manufacturing process a SmartBox system identifies whether the component has been added correctly or not. If a wrong component is added the system detects a problem and stops the production line. Production information captured is transmitted back to both an operator and the central control room so any problem can be rectified and production resumed. When components are added correctly they are individually bar-coded enabling traceability.

SmartBoxes also instruct operators, via a display, exactly what is needed next in the production process according to the process plan. This allows operators to operate a number of different processes without extensive training being required.

Visibility however, goes beyond operational aid. It can provide production management with the ability to view in real time what is happening on the production line. SmartBoxes can be accessed via a desktop PC, wireless pocket PC or any PC with internet access. Detailed information on production progress at any assembly station can be monitored allowing errors to be detected and dealt with quickly before a problem stops the whole line.

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