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Aicon’s Tubeinspect optical tube measuring system has been implemented at TI Automotive’s plant in Fuldabruck, Germany, to monitor the contours of plastic pipes.

TI Automotive, a supplier in the automotive sector, manufactures fuel storage and fluid carrying systems for braking and powertrain applications.

The Fuldabruck plant specialises in manufacturing prototypes of fuel pipes.

Since these are made of plastic, they cannot be bent with a conventional bending machine; instead, they are processed by thermal forming.

The quality of the formed pipes is assured by Daniel Bock, who monitors the whole manufacturing process.

He has to make sure that the geometry of a produced prototype is the exact size according to the drawing.

In order to check the contour of a prototype, it is measured in two stages: once directly after thermal forming and a second time after the assembly of add-on components such as flanges or brackets.

In the past, these measurements were conducted with the help of gauges and other mechanical inspection tools.

Bock said: ‘The drawback of traditional methods is that the measuring results depend very much on the operator.

‘Moreover, the reports derived from these measurements don’t comply with the current requirements in respect of verifiability.

‘To improve the quality of the measurement results, we thought about inspecting the pipes with an articulated arm, which means by the probing of predefined measuring points.

‘However, when observing measurement service providers, we saw that the measurements done with an articulated arm were very complex and time consuming,’ he added.

As a result, Bock began searching for another metrological alternative.

He continued: ‘Due to earlier projects, I have already been familiar with the principle of optical measurement.

‘Therefore, I have considered it possible to use this technology for the measurement of our pipes too.

‘I visited several trade fairs for quality assurance to find the right solution for our requirements.

‘In doing so, I suddenly came across Aicon’s optical tube measuring system, Tubeinspect.

‘Originally, this system was not made for measuring plastic pipes.

‘However, thanks to a vivid information exchange and a clear definition of our demands, Aicon was in a position to quickly upgrade the Tubeinspect software correspondingly.

‘Finally, the system was implemented in our plant in June 2008,’ said Bock.

Tubeinspect is an optical gauge for the measurement of formed tubes, pipes and wires.

For acquiring a pipe’s geometry, the object to be measured is placed in the optical measuring cell.

By capturing the tube with several high-resolution digital cameras, Tubeinspect measures the 3D geometry in a few seconds.

The results are then reported to enable evaluation on site.

In order to get precise measurement values for a comparison of nominal to actual data, a measuring system has to respect the elasticity of the plastic pipes.

With Tubeinspect, the user can now chose an elasticity value specific to the material.

This value reflects the flexibility of the pipe.

TI has reported that implementing the TubeInspect software has resulted in time savings.

Each prototype of a new plastic pipe can immediately be measured with the system.

The automotive company is able to detect deviations from the nominal pipe geometry very early.

Bock said: ‘With Tubeinspect, we can give our suppliers support for the production of the bending moulds at an incredibly early stage.

‘Already the first manufactured pipe is measureable without any difficulty.

‘As a consequence, our suppliers are instantly able to manufacture the bending moulds in an accurately fitting way.

‘Tubeinspect outputs a coordinate table that can be controlled by everyone – that means also by our customers,’ he added.

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