MAHLE selects SICK Automation to ensure component quality for high-end vehicle market

SICK Automation Southern Africa (SICK) was contracted by MAHLE, a manufacturer of heat exchangers for vehicles, to install an imaged-based sensor solution in its Kwa-Zulu Natal manufacturing facility. MAHLE needed to ensure that the scanning equipment selected would increase their quality checking method to 100% so that they, in turn, could provide a 100% flawless product guarantee to their customer.

The components to be checked were the tubes used in a specific motor vehicle. The scanning requirement was to ensure that all clips fitted into the tubes were present and that the scanning system would, via PLC, stop the process should it detect a clip missing from the component. SICK Automation installed its Inspector Camera image based sensor.

The Inspector Camera, part of the InspectorP65x product family, was side-mounted on both sides of the assembly machine and positioned above a jig. The camera is manually operated using a two-button system on the assembly machine which, once pushed, captures an image which it compares to a reference image. If all tube clips are present the PLC receives a ‘pass’ signal and the process continues. If any clips, even only one, are missing, a ‘fail’ signal is sent preventing the operation from continuing. Both of these processes are complemented with visual elements for the operators’ benefit.

“The system implemented is 100% fail-safe,” says Prishan Chain, National Sales Manager – Factory and Logistics Automation, SICK Southern Africa. “This quality inspection is integral in terms of the quality of the product delivered to the end user. If only one of the inspected components has a clip missing and continues into production, it will lead to end product quality challenges which may result in component failure. So we certify full control by ensuring the inspection process is totally reliable before releasing the component for the next manufacturing phase.”

SICK’s scope of work included the supply, installation and commissioning of all hardware, the setting up and programming of the Inspector Camera, the construction and supply of electrical panels, provision of electrical wiring diagram for the panel, testing and commissioning of the system to output a ‘fail’ signal for missing clips in any of the tubes, as well as the programming and commissioning of the PLC software.

“The Inspector Camera range of imaged based sensors provides an intelligent vision solution in an easy-to-use sensor package,” Chain explains. “Regardless of the task at hand, be it to verify completeness and quality, find a part’s position or measure its dimensions, the Inspector Camera is up to the challenge.” He adds that the rugged design and IP 67 metal housing makes these sensors ideal for tough environments, while the intelligent processing technology used makes them ideal for use with high-speed applications. “The housing is designed to easily optimise the optical needs of most applications,” Chain adds, “which ensures excellent inspection even with tough targets like highly reflective metal parts and multi-coloured labels.”

The image based sensor is not necessarily application specific, which means that MAHLE can use it for both new and aftermarket vehicles, as well as change the application for which it is used. More benefits of this solution include:

  • A multi-functional vision toolbox that offers smart camera-level performance with sensor ease-of-use
  • Its unique, interchangeable housing design provides the easiest way to improve image quality
  • The simple configuration in SOPAS*, including emulator for offline configuration and testing, reduces production downtime
  • It has an optimised easy-to-use operator interface that simplifies daily work
  • Ethernet communication and web API provide excellent connectivity and freedom to customise a user’s HMI

“As one of the oldest and largest sensor manufacturers globally, we provide entire solutions in addition to our comprehensive product range,” says Chain in conclusion. “In Germany we are renowned as an innovative organisation offering entire sensor solutions, and our German parent has begun following developments in the southern African industry. What this means for sub-Saharan Africa is that if there is a sensor or scanning application or solution that does not yet exist, SICK will tailor manufacture a solution to suit the exact requirements.

SICK was awarded the contract based on MAHLE’s previous experience with the company and its products. Testing of the product to application requirements began in January 2017 with final onsite concept and testing done in June. The official order was placed with SICK in July 2017 and installation completed in a fortnight.

*The SOPAS Engineering Tool is a SICK-developed program that defines an auto-start registry entry which makes the program run on each Windows boot for all user logins upon installation and set-up.

The Inspector Camera is side-mounted on both sides of the assembly machine, positioned above a jig.