BMW has been using CT and X-Ray scans to bolster quality for years now, but recent advancements in the technologies have allowed for the development of a new type of system with increased capabilities. In what’s being hailed as a first in the automotive industry, BMW has combined the two forms of scanning for use by a device comprised of a total of four robots to ensure vehicle quality. Not only is the new system fully autonomous and tied in with  machine learning data processing, but it also boasts the ability to examine and evaluate finite tolerances objects as small as a human hair.

The new technology is very important for BMW, as the automaker continues experimentation and development with new materials and bonding techniques. For example, the heat that certain adhered materials are subjected to during the robotic painting process can be quite high in select areas. In the past, BMW was forced to disassemble body panels to gain the kind of insight needed to continue improving things, but the new X-Ray Tomography setup can perform a full analysis without a single trim piece being popped off.

Made up of two sets of two robots, each working in pairs, the test subject vehicle only needs to be rolled into place before the examination can begin. In short, the robots gather thousands of X-Ray scans from varying angles, which are then processed by a propriety application which generates a multilayer 3D interactive image of the car. Tolerances as small as 100 micrometers can be measured and analyzed, and further development is continuing in the realm of machine learning or AI that can better interpret the scans. Before long, the system is expected to be able to discern patterns that would otherwise remain undetectable, along with linking individual blocks of data so that fully autonomous evaluations can someday be performed.

The setup currently remains in development form at the BMW Group Pilot Production Plant within its Munich-based Research and Innovation center, but it sounds like results have been promising, with the ultimate goal of aiding BMW in its efforts to integrate new technologies into series production vehicles, with minimal delays and defects. Check out the video below to watch the robots in action.—Alex Tock

[Photos and video courtesy of BMW Group.]



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