Motor vehicle manufacturers have a moral, legal, and financial duty to inspect the quality of their products well before they arrive at the dealership. With global supply chains in and vertical consolidation out, inspecting component quality is paramount. During the final production stage before public dissemination, manufacturers must also be their own safeguard against assembly defects. For speed, accuracy, and reliability, the best way to perform a manufacturer’s motor vehicle safety inspections is by using effective NDT equipment.
Nondestructive testing, or NDT, means testing component materials without destroying them. To conduct structure testing in automotive gears, transmission shafts, wheel bearings, engine valve tips and other components used in automotive manufacturing, eddy current technology can be ideal. For welds, thickness variations in metals and other materials, ultrasonic testing can be the right choice. By inspecting a statistically significant portion of components with ultrasonic and eddy current NDT equipment, manufacturers can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing their inspected components are helping to ensure vehicles are safe to drive.
Ultrasonic Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections
Ultrasonic testing uses the transmission of sound waves through solid objects to form a visual representation of the object’s composition. It’s the same way bats catch bugs—different materials affect sound waves in which are interpretable to the receiver. Ultrasonic equipment can detect either reflections from sound waves bounced back to a receiver or variations in metals that pass through to the other side.
Ultrasonic equipment can be used to detect cracks, warps, flaws, porosity, and hardness and thickness variations in metals. So, inspecting automotive metals with ultrasonic imaging allows automakers to verify heat treatment results, fastener and tap presence and integrity, and the quantity, presence, and orientation of external and overmolded parts. It can also be used to spot-check welds for flaws.
Eddy Current Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Technology
Eddy current technology works most effectively near the surface of conductive materials. By inducing a magnetic field into the material and measuring the result, eddy current instruments can also create images of the interiors of objects. Changes in the properties of the material create magnetic eddy currents, like rocks in a stream or trees in the wind. These eddies are noted by sensors and visualized by the instrument.
Eddy current and ultrasonic testing technology are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they work better in tandem than either does alone. Because they use different principles, eddy current technology detects materials flaws that ultrasonic imaging has a difficult time noticing, and vice versa. Used together, the two technologies can perform a truly comprehensive inspection of vehicle components.
Employing NDT Technology in Motor Vehicle Manufacturing
Speed and efficiency are the watchwords of modern vehicle manufacturing. Each company strives to work leaner than the next. Plant managers with exacting quotas and schedules may be reluctant to add lengthy steps to the manufacturing process. Likewise, upper office decision-makers may wonder if the increased production time is worth the increased production quality. Yet safety inspections are a mandatory part of the production process, and if conducted efficiently, pay for themselves in reduced liability.
Employing capable technicians, equipped with effective ultrasonic and eddy current technology, maintains a high rate of productivity. Lightweight, portable ultrasonic and eddy current testing equipment allows technicians to perform inspections of parts in situ. This is particularly effective for fastener, tap, and hole testing, as well as component verification.
Powerful eddy current equipment can also be operated at the full speed of the line, inspecting each vehicle component without slowing production. While this does require some investment in equipment and increases operating costs in employee training and salaries, it doesn’t affect production volume.
Certain equipment features predict success. Given the often demanding environment of the factory floor, durable, shockproof equipment is preferred. Intuitive software and fast processors allow technicians to perform scans and pass components rapidly. Software that can store results and aggregate test data into useful, detailed reports allows managers to make more informed strategic decisions.
For automakers, performing NDT motor vehicle safety inspections is a beneficial duty. It reduces the risk of product failure on the road, which helps protect against lawsuits, fines, regulatory action, and recalls. The data collected also provides strategic insight, such as informing supplier decisions. Investing in capable ultrasonic and eddy current testing helps keep our highways safe and automakers in the black.