Automotive Industry & 3D Digital Manufacturing

Use of 3D Digital Manufacturing in Vehicle development/production/manufacturing preparation

A summary of a presentation given by Mr. Kazuhiro Sano, Director of General Assembly Department, Motomachi Plant, Toyota Motor Corporation.


■ Position of Vehicle Quality and Production Engineering Department

The Department of Vehicle Quality and Production Engineering had the goal to develop the equipment and processes to improve the quality of product and process by connecting the vehicle design technology and the production field during the vehicle development stage. This would enable the manufacturing process requirements to be considered during the design and development of the vehicle.  Improving the quality is a goal for the entire company, and looking at the vehicle quality from the production engineering perspective can help achieve this goal.

■ The Manufacturing Process

A good design is one that is done with the good drawings - one that guarantees the function of the required product features. The quality of the product will be guaranteed when Production Engineering makes it according to the drawing.  Design Engineering creates the specification of this “good production requirement”. Manufacturing Engineering can produce good products by maintaining the manufacturing facilities and assembly lines, and by following the standard work based on the “good design” and “good requirement”. The role of IT is to make sure that the process is complete and that there are no missing steps or gaps during the design, production engineering and production processes and make the entire process more efficient. This means it is very important to identify any problems that are hidden in the process and work on those problems step by step.

One thing to be concerned about is that when a 3D design is completed and visualized, it is very easy to be content with a great looking design without looking at the real quality of the design. We should avoid this and need to enhance our ability to assess the essence of the things at this stage of the process. By understanding the essence of things, we can blend the real world and virtual 3D world, and this will support and sustain the future of manufacturing.

■ Quality initiatives centered on Digital Manufacturing

The activities of the Vehicle Production Engineering are divided between the process/facility planning and quality planning. We started using XVL to leverage digital engineering for these activates.

The applications of XVL in process/facility planning are:

1)    Check assembly feasibility for each component in the assembly sequences
2)    Confirm the installation of large parts such as the engine
3)    Check the work space for tools and technician posture
4)    Confirm the completeness of the assembly line
5)    Capture the check results in reports.

XVL is also used in the quality planning process. Design data contains quality information so that the quality of products should be ensured when production work is carried out. However, because various problems occur in the real world, we check and confirm the issues from the quality control perspective at an early stage.

This includes:
6)    Reliability check - such as abnormal noise and source of potential fire problems
7)    Confirm the manufacturability
8)    Confirm the visibility of vehicle frame number
9)    Confirm the dynamic movement of tools/operators to ensure quality
10)  Confirmation that the process will capture the design intent at each step of the process

Since XVL enables the very smooth handling of 3D data, it has been possible to shorten the time necessary to perform the operations required for the quality checks. Recently we have begun testing how the moving parts are affected by machining variation using tolerance analysis. Learning how to manage the variance is a key feedback that we need to provide to the design team in order to maintain quality.

■ Conclusion:  The future use of IT

Looking at the future, the plan is to continue to promote the reuse of data by centralizing more of the information from a wider number of departments and making more accessible. The key is how we convert user information to digital data and getting it into the design, production, services and sales.

The digital engineering world will continue to evolve in the future. Virtual world will be closer to the real world. Even though virtual models are becoming more realistic, we should never think as if the actual product has been completed. The person who will use the virtual data and IT tools must be highly aware of this fact. The IT tools alone are not enough. It is important that engineers still retain the knowledge and desire to improve processes. The marriage of these engineers with the IT tools will ultimately lead to the best process improvements.

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