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
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.