Automated production faces a variety of challenges arising from deviations in the measurements of vendor parts. To meet high quality standards, the position and fit of the work pieces that are about to be connected have to adhere to tight specifications – especially with joining technology in the automotive industry. The quality of the components is tested and optimized on a regular basis, but sometimes the automated process parameters have to be adjusted manually, which is not good for efficiency. To keep such manual intervention to a minimum, the welding process used in the car body construction of the VW Touran (Wolfsburg plant) is monitored within a manufacturing cell by a quality management system called ARGOS. ARGOS is a modular system developed by the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Applied Production and Joining Technology. It interacts with other systems as a cyber physical system (CPS) to enable adaptive monitoring of production processes and physical components. The Steinbeis Team and the project team at Volkswagen were honored for their partnership with the 2014 Steinbeis Foundation Transfer Award.
The team at the Steinbeis Transfer Center, which is based at Jade University of Applied Sciences in Wilhelmshaven, are experts in the field of Industry 4.0. Their work revolves around crosslinking systems used in production processes and monitoring the quality of data processing. CPS’s interact “machine-to-machine” via embedded, network-based technology. By integrating physical objects (such as sensors and devices) into digital processes, systems can be flexibly linked, even if they previously had no common interfaces. Depending on the task, the ARGOS software is able to evaluate the process and sensor parameters and can process this information based on targets using sensor networks. There are also internal sensors to ensure evaluations meet requirements and that deviations can be compensated for in real time through actuators.
The application developed with Volkswagen makes it possible to monitor and analyze welding parameters as well as properties relating to component geometry with a bearing on quality. If deviations are detected, the production process is automatically adjusted through control and regulation algorithms in order to ensure that the final welding seam is of sufficiently high quality. As a result, manual adjustment of the process parameters is no longer necessary.
A number of technical aspects were a major challenge for the experts, as was implementation and testing of the system during ongoing production, and it was only thanks to the close collaboration and communication between the project team members that the undertaking was a success. There is tremendous potential for the application, which was awarded the Steinbeis Foundation’s Transfer Award — Löhn Award. This is not just because it will now make it possible to monitor and adapt welding engineering processes in the future, but also a variety of other processes.