Advanced Materials & Processes

NOV-DEC 2013

Covers developments in engineering materials selection, processing, fabrication, testing/characterization, materials engineering trends, and emerging technologies, industrial and consumer applications, as well as business and management trends

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TECHNICAL SPOTLIGHT Robotic Testing and Characterization Making Headway D riven by the need to meet 800,000 cost-cutting initiatives in a 700,000 globally competitive envi600,000 ronment, automation has become a 500,000 necessity in almost every manufac400,000 turing industry. The highest levels of automated production are 300,000 Manual achieved by integrating robots into 200,000 Automatic production lines, such as those 100,000 widely used in the automotive in1 2 3 4 5 dustry. Requiring little interaction Operating period, years with human operators, industrial robots work at the leading edge of Fig. 1 – Reduction in per-specimen testing cost is of such automation, increasing quality and magnitude that a robotic testing system typically pays for itself within two years of installation. productivity while reducing costs. Several industries are now at the point of expanding robot integration beyond production tasks, moving into new areas such as testing. The use of materials testing and characterization methods to increase quality and productivity is well established throughout manufacturing centers in a wide range of industries. As such, it was only a matter of time before the practice of testing and evaluation would turn to automation and robotics not only for cost reduction initiatives, but also to enhance accuracy and increase test throughput. "The primary aims of testing automation include improving test quality, increasing productivity, and maintaining flexibility," explains Robert Kaifler, robotics product manager for Fig. 2 – Parallel processing may be applied to Zwick/Roell, Ulm, Germany, a supplier of auintegrate a variety of user-specific instruments and tomated materials and component testing systo deliver test results faster than those obtained tems. Zwick has more than 25 years of with systems operating with conventional software architectures. robotics expertise from supplying more than Investment and operating costs, Euros Several industries are now at the point of expanding robot integration beyond production tasks, moving into new areas such as testing, to save time and money and increase throughput. Automated testing supports automotive supply chain needs Automotive manufacturing depends on a long chain of qualified suppliers delivering quality-assured parts and components to production lines within tight schedules. Because of this, automotive manufacturers typically engage in rigorous qualification routines when selecting component suppliers. As supplier relationships are defined and solidified, testing protocols are determined. The protocols often prescribe that routine tests be performed on incoming shipments of parts and components. These tests are important to assessing both supplier quality and traceability. Test routines are standardized and often involve sampling inbound product at the lot level. Suppliers to automotive OEMs must make substantial investments in testing to certify the performance of their products. The high volume of material that must be tested—and the accuracy that must be maintained—support the business case for automated testing. The majority of automotive manufacturers require that suppliers provide a certificate of performance for each component shipped. Suppliers meet with their respective OEM customers to define the specific tests that must be performed and the properties that must be reported on the product certificates that accompany each shipment. By automating the testing process, suppliers can ensure that testing occurs with the utmost levels of accuracy and within the time constraints that must be managed according to production schedules. 20 ADVANCED MATERIALS & PROCESSES • NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013

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