BMW Plant, Regensburg, Bavaria
Optimising Process. Optimising Experience.
Is it possible to work at high-speed, balance costs and still maintain complete confidence in the reliability of your process and the quality of your product?
The answer is YES. Welcome to the possibilities of the dynamic and versatile Leica Absolute Tracker AT960 laser measurement system from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. It operates with six degrees of freedom (6DoF), and it has a full range of 3D-metrology accessories that bring revolutionary features and benefits to the practice of industrial measurement.
This ground-breaking technology has improved the daily working lives of a team in Regensburg who chose to put it to the test in an environment that demands excellence.
BMW AG, renowned for its world-class luxury vehicles and automotive components, is synonymous with style, class, speed, comfort and, of course, advanced engineering. If we take a moment to consider the complex and multifaceted nature of all that’s involved in the manufacture of such superior examples of automotive excellence, it’s easy to understand that even the tiniest of details require the most skilful application of knowledge and process.
When Martin Förster — a measurement specialist from the BMW plant in Regensburg — came to us with a problem, we were confident that a new system from our portfolio of innovative, advanced technologies and integrated solutions would be the answer. Fortunately, Martin had already done a lot of research and was of the same opinion.
In essence, he was looking for a new and thoroughly portable measuring system that would serve to improve efficiency, accuracy, productivity and ease of use, and it was our pleasure to provide the right combination of high-end, adaptable, reliable technology to do just that. But first, we had to learn a little more about the specific needs and conditions of Martin’s department, and he was most helpful in providing all the information we needed.
For example, previously, Martin and his team used a fringe projection system, but one of the main problems was that it required the manual placing of targets on the object to be measured, which meant the process of image acquisition and processing took a really long time.
Martin also told us why accuracy is so important when it comes to the work of his department: “Deviations can occur during the assembly of a car body, which is why the whole car body must be measured after the assembly. Once it has been measured, if we find that a deviation has occurred, for example, the anchor points on a car door have been mounted incorrectly, we then inform the production team so that the cause can be addressed and the deviation immediately rectified.”
Also, when it comes to the subject of portability, Martin informed us that measurements must be done in many locations within the company, including production areas, where it is absolutely vital that the alignment of robots, tools and jigs is precise so that the production of the parts is correct.
So, all in all, they really needed a better, faster, more portable, more accurate alternative to the old system they had. The minutiae of daily operations, the overall user experience and the results were all in need of a new injection of technological innovation and development.
Before coming to Hexagon, Martin had made a huge effort and spent a lot of time researching and comparing different measurement systems from different suppliers in an attempt to find exactly the right tools to do the best job, and his main focus was on comparing the functionality of these systems relative to their use on a variety of individual automotive components, particularly on the most critical points.
As a result of all this hard work, and after communicating with us, Martin learned that Hexagon could best provide the solution to his problem; happily, his search was over. Our expertise in the science and art of precision measurement meant that our products and services were exactly what Martin needed, as he describes here in his own words.
“After all the research and comparisons, I learned that the accuracy of Hexagon’s products is the best. Also, considering that the margin for our production tolerances is usually a maximum of +/- 1 mm, I needed a system that could handle that kind of measurement volume; the AT960 is that system.
“Additionally, I learned that the AT960 is the most portable system on the market, and that if the tracker were to be grouped with the T-Scan5, T-Probe and Red-Ring Reflectors, we would have exactly what we needed to ensure the portable, accurate and fast measurement of gaps, surfaces, drill holes and the alignment of the car body and its components, in addition to confidence in the correct alignment of our large production tools. “
The Leica Absolute Tracker AT960 and the lightweight, hand-held, easily manoeuvrable Leica T-Scan5 work super-fast in unison, saving time without loss of precision. The T-Scan has never been so simple to install or use, and it has a number of features designed to improve its operation and results. For example, the new user feedback feature with improved dual-colour pilot beam and acoustic feedback offers the most reliable data acquisition and superb user-experience, features which have made a significant, positive and lasting difference to the overall experience and productivity of Martin’s team at BMW.
Also, the many diodes positioned around the T-Scan casing mean that the AT960 can easily and seamlessly track the T-Scan’s movements. Therefore, should the connection between the tracker and scanner be momentarily lost due to repositioning, PowerLock — our patented active vision technology— provides intelligent targeting to automatically relocate the scanner and instantly re-stablish an uninterrupted beam.
Additionally, the T-Scan is so efficient that it need only be passed over a single area once to attain the required data, further increasing its benefit in terms of time, without any loss of accuracy. When it comes to scanning a whole car body, these are some of the features that have transformed a once tedious and arduous process for Martin’s team into one that is smooth, efficient, stress-free and still remarkably precise.
Another brilliant feature of the AT960 is the built-in variozoom technology that provides 6DoF measurement as standard, making it compatible with the latest Leica T-Product range and traditional reflectors. That means that the PowerLock feature also functions when the AT960 is used in conjunction with a T-Probe or a reflector, which allows the operator to benefit from the most effective inspection and measuring method for the job, every time.
The Red-Ring Reflector —a Corner Cube reflector with a removable ring, hardened steel surface and double the optical centring accuracy +/- 3um (0.00012“) – was the reflector of choice for this custom solution. It is perfect in terms of practicality of function for the fixed installations on the platforms in the BMW measurement rooms. The reflectors can be positioned to take static measurements of surfaces that are difficult to manually scan, e.g. the underside of a car body.
A further benefit recognised by the team at BMW is the fast data relay afforded by this particular system of measurement tools, and here are Martin’s thoughts on this feature.
“Another bonus with this system is the fast relay of data from the T-Scan to the Absolute Tracker and then from the tracker to the software, which means the scanner can be operated at a speed dictated by the operator. It’s great that the tracker can keep pace with the speed of the manually operated scanner; the system works with us.”
The AT960 is a full-system solution that has user-friendly controls, which makes the set-up quick and simple and the operation easily customisable. Also, it has a completely sealed unit certified to IP54 and integrated environmental monitoring; Martin explained why that’s important in the measuring rooms at BMW.
“Temperature is a very important factor for us in the measuring process. When the temperature of a car body is too hot, the body expands, and when it’s too cold, it contracts. Such changes can affect the accuracy of the readings and so we must be in control of the temperature, at all times. The tracker helps us to do that because it can be easily programmed to alert us if there’s a change in temperature within the measuring room.”
Featuring optional battery operation and Wi-Fi as standard, and with a system weight of less than 14 kg (meaning that it fits in a single box!), the AT960 can be taken almost anywhere and it more than fulfils Martin’s portability criterion. Furthermore, another flexible functionality feature of the AT960 is that it can be detached at the base and positioned vertically, horizontally and even hung upside-down, if need be.
When Martin was asked to give a brief rundown of how each element of this laser measurement system is used on a daily basis and to share his thoughts about the decision to invest in our products and services, this is what he had to say.
“The whole system was purchased one year ago and we now have four measurement specialists who received training from Hexagon on how to operate the system. We use the AT960 coupled with the Red-Ring Reflector to measure the underside and general alignment of the car body, the AT960 with the T-Probe for hidden point probing and measurement of drill holes, and the AT960 with the T-Scan for high definition scanning of surfaces and gaps.
“I’m very satisfied with Hexagon and its products. They have saved us a lot of time and they make the process much easier for all of us. Also, the tracker with T-Scan can be fully automated, and we would like to head in that direction with our processes in the future.”
As Martin plans how to best automate the scanning processes in their measurement rooms in the future, he can rest assured that our advanced technology and services will be there to meet his team’s advancing metrological needs.
We take great pride in helping others to drive productivity with absolute quality and accuracy as standard, and this experience with Martin and his team at BMW is a great example of that, and it has been a great success for all.
MMPRO Film- und Medienproduktion GmbH,
Skyline Medien Verlags,
AJNS New Media,
Emons Verlag GmbH,
T&T Teaching and Training,
Matthaes Verlag GmbH, Triad Berlin Projektgesellschaft mbH, M2-Automation,
Paramatic CGI & Animation,
Philipp Bremer Motion Design,
Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence,
Lintje Visual Services,
Konstantino Dregos, Charité,