PPF process optimisation through industrial CT testing

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Qua­li­ty mana­gers play a cru­cial role in ensu­ring pro­duct qua­li­ty during the pro­duc­tion pro­cess and the pro­duct release pro­ce­du­re (PPF pro­cess). Thanks to tech­no­lo­gi­cal advan­ces, a num­ber of test methods are available to them for this pur­po­se, which ensu­re that an effi­ci­ent and accu­ra­te qua­li­ty assess­ment of com­pon­ents is pos­si­ble. Howe­ver, befo­re any new PPF method is intro­du­ced, the ques­ti­on ari­ses as to which test method can be used in the best pos­si­ble way.

In the fol­lo­wing, the PPF pro­ce­du­re accor­ding to VDA Volu­me 2 (VDA = Ger­man Asso­cia­ti­on of the Auto­mo­ti­ve Indus­try) is con­side­red. This has been desi­gned for the sam­pling of series parts. Sin­ce indus­tri­al CT tech­no­lo­gy enables non-des­truc­ti­ve qua­li­ty assess­ment of a wide ran­ge of com­pon­ents during the enti­re PPF pro­cess, the poten­ti­al and pos­si­ble appli­ca­ti­ons of this will be exami­ned in more detail below.

The PPF process at a glance

Here you can see a sim­pli­fied over­view of the dif­fe­rent pha­ses of the PPF pro­cess in pro­duct creation.

1. Bid­ding pha­se: infor­ma­ti­on on sup­pli­ers, cos­ts, deli­very times & other rele­vant fac­tors are gathe­red to enable a decis­i­on on the order.

2. Con­tract con­clu­si­on: After the bid­ding pha­se, a con­tract is con­cluded. This con­ta­ins the agree­ments for the fur­ther phases.

3. Pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment: The vehic­le or com­pon­ents are desi­gned and developed.

4. Pro­cess deve­lo­p­ment: Par­al­lel to pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment, pro­cess deve­lo­p­ment is car­ri­ed out. Here the manu­fac­tu­ring methods, pro­ces­ses and tools are deve­lo­ped to enable effi­ci­ent and high-qua­li­ty pro­duc­tion of the product.

5. Pro­to­ty­pe: After pro­duct and pro­cess deve­lo­p­ment is com­ple­ted, a pro­to­ty­pe is pro­du­ced to iden­ti­fy and cor­rect any design or manu­fac­tu­ring problems.

6. Pre-series: In the pre-series, a limi­t­ed num­ber of pro­ducts are manu­fac­tu­red to prepa­re for series pro­duc­tion. Exten­si­ve test­ing and veri­fi­ca­ti­on is car­ri­ed out to ensu­re that pro­duct qua­li­ty and pro­duc­tion pro­ces­ses meet requirements.

7. SOP (Start of pro­duc­tion): The SOP marks the offi­ci­al start of series pro­duc­tion. From this point on, pro­ducts are manu­fac­tu­red on a lar­ger sca­le and deli­ver­ed to customers.

8. Series: In this pha­se, regu­lar series pro­duc­tion of the pro­ducts takes place accor­ding to the defi­ned pro­duc­tion plans and processes.

9. Spa­re part: Accor­ding to the SOP, spa­re parts for the pro­du­ced vehic­le or com­po­nent are also pro­du­ced. This includes the plan­ning, deve­lo­p­ment and pro­duc­tion of spa­re parts to ensu­re the future main­ten­an­ce and repair of the product.

Industrial CT testing options in the PPF process

External CT laboratory

For small or irre­gu­lar bat­ches, or when spe­ci­fic test­ing tasks requi­re the exper­ti­se of on-site CT pro­fes­sio­nals, or when in-house CT capa­ci­ty is insuf­fi­ci­ent, the­re is the opti­on of using an exter­nal CT labo­ra­to­ry. Qua­li­ty mana­gers can send their com­pon­ents to a dedi­ca­ted loca­ti­on for test­ing, ensu­ring access to fast and relia­ble test­ing by indus­tri­al CT experts.

The off-site CT lab is equip­ped with sta­te-of-the-art tech­no­lo­gy and ope­ra­ted by expe­ri­en­ced tech­ni­ci­ans and ana­lysts. By uti­li­sing their exper­ti­se, qua­li­ty mana­gers can bene­fit from accu­ra­te and com­pre­hen­si­ve CT inspec­tions, even on com­plex or chal­len­ging com­pon­ents. This exter­nal CT lab ser­vice gives qua­li­ty mana­gers access to advan­ced inspec­tion capa­bi­li­ties wit­hout having to invest in their own CT equipment.

CT data evaluation via the cloud

When it comes to effi­ci­ent­ly eva­lua­ting CT scans from the in-house CT scan­ner, a cloud-based plat­form offers a powerful solu­ti­on. By trans­fer­ring CT scans to this plat­form, qua­li­ty mana­gers can save a lot of time and stream­li­ne the eva­lua­ti­on pro­cess. The cloud-based sys­tem auto­ma­ti­cal­ly checks pre­vious­ly defi­ned defect foci and pro­vi­des imme­dia­te feed­back on whe­ther the com­po­nent meets the requi­red qua­li­ty standards.

The main advan­ta­ge of this cloud-based plat­form is the abili­ty to speed up the inspec­tion pro­cess and redu­ce it to the scan time of the CT scan­ner its­elf. This ser­vice is not only limi­t­ed to auto­ma­ted inspec­tion of lar­ge quan­ti­ties, but also offers the pos­si­bi­li­ty to inspect indi­vi­du­al parts in detail by using the exper­ti­se of expe­ri­en­ced experts. Through this cloud-based solu­ti­on, qua­li­ty mana­gers can ensu­re effi­ci­ent eva­lua­ti­on of CT scans.

Rent a mobile CT

In situa­tions whe­re an imme­dia­te CT exami­na­ti­on is requi­red direct­ly at the pro­duc­tion site, the­re is the opti­on of ren­ting a mobi­le CT sys­tem. This opti­on eli­mi­na­tes the high invest­ment cos­ts and long wai­ting times asso­cia­ted with purcha­sing a fixed CT sys­tem. An expe­ri­en­ced team takes care of set­ting up the sys­tem and ensu­res that it is tail­o­red to the spe­ci­fic requi­re­ments of the qua­li­ty con­trol process.

In addi­ti­on, a ful­ly auto­ma­ted eva­lua­ti­on sys­tem can be set up on request for seam­less and effi­ci­ent test­ing. The only task that qua­li­ty manage­ment staff need to under­ta­ke is to intro­du­ce the com­pon­ents to the CT sys­tem. This on-site ren­tal opti­on offers fle­xi­bi­li­ty, cost savings and imme­dia­te access to CT inspections.

Industrial computed tomography using the PPF process

CT inspec­tions can play an important role at every stage of the PPF pro­cess, pro­vi­ding valuable insight and feed­back to ensu­re pro­duct qua­li­ty. The fol­lo­wing shows how CT inspec­tions can be used effec­tively in the dif­fe­rent pha­ses of the PPF process. 

1. Offer pha­se: The focus is on con­cept, design & indi­vi­du­al con­sul­ta­ti­on. It makes sen­se to plan for CT ser­vices at an ear­ly stage.

2. Con­trac­ting: In pha­ses whe­re the­re is an increased inspec­tion effort, qua­li­ty mana­gers should con­tract for the inte­gra­ti­on of CT inspec­tions into their qua­li­ty con­trol pro­to­cols. This pha­se pro­vi­des an oppor­tu­ni­ty to defi­ne the scope of CT inspec­tion, taking into account the spe­ci­fic requi­re­ments and chal­lenges of the pro­ject. By inclu­ding CT inspec­tion as an accept­ed method in the con­tract, qua­li­ty mana­gers can ensu­re tho­rough assess­ment and com­pli­ance with the desi­red qua­li­ty standards.

3. Pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment: During this pha­se, it is neces­sa­ry to eli­cit which types of inspec­tion are requi­red for the com­po­nent and which CT pro­vi­der can per­form them. The know-how and the available CTs at the ser­vice pro­vi­der are key fac­tors for fea­si­bi­li­ty here.

4. Pro­cess deve­lo­p­ment: The qua­li­ty mana­gers should defi­ne inspec­tion cri­te­ria in this pha­se so that the set-up of an auto­ma­tic eva­lua­ti­on sys­tem can be pre­pared in time for the later pha­ses. In clo­se coope­ra­ti­on with the CT experts, you should deter­mi­ne sui­ta­ble para­me­ters for scan optimisation.

5. Pro­to­ty­pe: Rapid feed­back and con­ti­nuous qua­li­ty impro­ve­ments are cri­ti­cal at this stage. CT lab ser­vices can play a key role in this pha­se, allo­wing qua­li­ty mana­gers to accu­ra­te­ly assess pro­to­ty­pe qua­li­ty and per­for­mance. Through a CAD target/actual com­pa­ri­son, CT pro­fes­sio­nals can imme­dia­te­ly iden­ti­fy poten­ti­al defects and are­as for impro­ve­ment. This feed­back leads to ite­ra­ti­ve impro­ve­ments in the pro­to­ty­p­ing pro­cess and ensu­res opti­mal pro­duct quality.

6. Pre-pro­duc­tion: This pha­se requi­res quick feed­back for a lar­ger num­ber of parts. Qua­li­ty mana­gers can now bene­fit from pre­pared CT eva­lua­ti­on auto­ma­ti­on to hand­le the hig­her inspec­tion volu­me. Depen­ding on the resour­ces available, they can use their own CT equip­ment for qua­li­ty con­trol and avail of cloud eva­lua­ti­on or you can rent a mobi­le indus­tri­al CT. This approach ensu­res effi­ci­ent eva­lua­ti­on and feed­back to fine-tune the manu­fac­tu­ring pro­cess pri­or to volu­me production.

7. SOP (Start of Pro­duc­tion): An increased inspec­tion effort is requi­red in the short term in this pha­se in order to imple­ment the manu­fac­tu­ring pro­cess effi­ci­ent­ly. The ren­tal of the mobi­le indus­tri­al CT pro­ves to be par­ti­cu­lar­ly advan­ta­ge­ous in this pha­se, as it buf­fers the increased test­ing demand wit­hout high invest­ment cos­ts. Qua­li­ty mana­gers can thus ensu­re that the desi­red qua­li­ty stan­dards are achie­ved and react quick­ly in case of devia­ti­ons. This paves the way for smooth and effec­ti­ve series production.

8. Series: In order to per­ma­nent­ly inspect this lar­ge num­ber of com­pon­ents, it is advi­sa­ble to purcha­se your own CT devices and inspect them auto­ma­ti­cal­ly via cloud eva­lua­ti­on or to rent a mobi­le CT.

9. Spa­re part: Rejec­ted or clai­med com­pon­ents can be ana­ly­sed in an exter­nal CT labo­ra­to­ry to gain detail­ed pro­duct infor­ma­ti­on. Due to the lower quan­ti­ties and the redu­ced time pres­su­re, it is a good idea to have them che­cked by experts in an exter­nal CT labo­ra­to­ry. They can help deter­mi­ne the cau­se of the rejects so that future pro­duc­tion pro­ces­ses can be optimised.

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