Kindly note, this is an update to the former SonicEdge consortium. New project name is SonicEdge Plus. Reason is that the German partners have been replaced, new project member is the German Demmel AG. Although the Austrian R&D part remains pretty unchanged, the below stipulated innovation in the automotive production process is new, which is now a major R&D part to be contributed by the Demmel Group. The project goals are at least as technically challenging as within the former consortium, regarding market value the envisaged project results and research impact is a multiple to former goals as been stated in the following.
Nowadays, many products derive from combined processes of printing, varnishing, die cutting, forming and moulding require surfaces without any defects. Especially in automotive high surface quality standards are required. For production of such high quality products the use of protective foils during the processes is state-of-the-art. The foil is applied to metal plates after varnishing in order to protect surfaces from damages occurring to high pressure treatments in the die cutting and forming process. After this production step foils have to be manually removed again before start of the moulding process. Quality checks between those production steps are mandatory. The main quality attributes are
- Colour and position of the different layers of the silk-screen printing
- Dust and particle free printing and varnishing
- Control of the geometry of the formed areas, e.g. in perspective of brightness, geometry, reflection/gloss
- Scratches, dents and other mechanical damages
Today quality inspection and removal of the protective foil is done manually. Such time consuming manual quality inspection and removal of foils are mostly outsourced to sub-contractors in low wage countries, which mean an interruption in production steps.
Condition precedent for a more innovative production with an automated inspection module for surface qualities is the avoidance or automatic removal of such foils. This is very challenging as the whole manufacturing process has to be redesigned, which is a major issue in this project.
Positive project results could be advantageous in many ways;
- Economically (faster; no intermediate production steps for foils, polishing and quality inspection) and
- Environmentally (less waste, less transport of semi-finished goods).
To achieve these ambitious project goals, e.g. without protective foils, it is necessary to consider tribology aspects for avoidance of surface damages of the parts in the production process. As secondary objective, the endurance of the production tools should be increased significantly by development of better tool techniques and ongoing tribology research.
Another major goal of this R&D project is to develop a technical solution for enabling automatized quality checks in the different states of production. State-of-the-art automated surface inspection systems work efficiently on very small areas or surfaces with no gloss only. This means, regarding to products with glossy and dull finish areas, a highly flexible quality check system has to be developed. A big challenge in this regard is the inspection of parts with free-form surfaces.
Current inspection systems are not able to combine a visual inspection (e.g. for dust) with mechanical inspection (e.g. correct 3D contour without dents) as well. The project SonicEdge Plus will contribute to applied research solutions to solve this problem.
Therefore, the SonicEdge Plus project aims the following:
1 - R&D towards manufacturing redesign for die cutting and forming process do provide the conditions for the inspect system.
2 - R&D towards automatized high-speed optical surface investigation systems
3 - Integration of high-speed optical surface investigation systems within the new designed production line and production system
4 - Integration of all developed components and quality instruments into a smart factory (this goal is optional).
It is expected - in such case the R&D project is successful - to reduce manufacturing time by 25%, production costs by 10%, transport costs by 80% and increase time to market by more than 35%. Additionally, the ecological footprint is reduced significantly due to avoidance of protective foils and unnecessary transports of semi-finished goods to/from low wage countries.
As the companies in the consortium originate from Austria and Germany, the Austrian partner Eberle will apply for FFG Basisprogramm while the German company will take part without application to national funding. The duration of the project is thirty six months.