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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Adding Flexibility and Cost-Savings to Automotive Tube Inspections

A technician fits a tube into the AICON 3D TubeInspect
A technician fits a tube into the AICON 3D TubeInspect for quality analysis. Its geometry will be digitally determined by the 16 Allied Vision cameras.
A screen image of the tube being checked
A screen image of the tube being checked. If corrections are needed, the system can transmit them via a server directly to the controller program of the tube-bending machine.
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Allied Vision Technologies (Stadtroda Germany)
AICON 3D GmbH (Braunschweig, Germany)

The Imaging Challenge

Fuel and brake fluid tubes for the automotive industry are delivered in fixed dimensions and shaped into complex patterns with bending machines. They are subject to extremely strict quality criteria because mistakes can have detrimental consequences for driving safety. For that reason, the quality check must be precise but also fast and uncomplicated, so that the correction data can be transferred to the pipe bending machine as quickly as possible.

The Solution

Traditionally, the automotive industry used mechanical gauges for quality control; the shaped pipe was inserted and checked visually. However, this inspection process proved to be extremely inflexible and cost-intensive, since the gauges had to be manufactured for each tube and vehicle type and had to be altered for even the smallest changes in geometry.

An innovative solution was developed by AICON 3D: TubeInspect. The system works with 16 high-resolution digital cameras. The line to be measured is simply placed in the optical measurement cell, and its geometry is digitally determined via the cameras. TubeInspect measures tubes with diameters from 4 to 200 mm (from a fraction of an inch up to 7.9 in.). The measurement process is extremely fast: for a line with 15 bends, it takes about 10 to 20 seconds.

The results of measurement can be recorded in a database and documented during the process. Once the data has been recorded, the software does a target/actual comparison. Variances are displayed in color on screen with the aid of a curved surface tolerance calculation. If the tube measured needs corrections, the system can transmit them via a server directly to the CNC program of the tube-bending machine.

The Tools Used

  • Allied Vision Technologies Marlin F-131B FireWire Digital CCD-Cameras
  • Schneider-Kreuznach lenses
  • Standard personal computer with Microsoft® Windows® XP, Intel processor Core 2 Duo E6750 (2.66 GHz) current configuration
  • FireWire cable connections
  • AICON TubeInspect Software
  • Measuring field with transillumination and 30 illuminated high precision reference points (illumination generated by standard fluorescent lamps)
  • Rolling shutters

The Difference it Made

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