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What benefits does 3D scanning provide in the area of quality control in the automotive industry?

10 July 2024

Delivering specific quality within a precise time frame is one of the decisive criteria in the process of selecting suppliers in the automotive industry today. With the rapid development of technology and the increasing complexity of vehicles, the need for even faster and more precise quality control is growing. How does 3D scanning address the challenges in the automotive industry?   

3D scanning technology in industry – applications 

3D scanners are widely used in a wide variety of manufacturing fields, contributing to product quality, manufacturing efficiency, the emergence of innovation and even effective industrial management. In the energy industry, for example, digital 3D models contribute to the optimization of machinery and equipment, and consequently to the quality of processes and the product itself. In precision medicine, scanners are indispensable for creating anatomical models and producing personalized implants, for example, while in the construction industry, they make it possible to accurately examine the condition of existing structures and facilitate the planning of repair work. In the aerospace industry, 3D scanning helps in the design and production of parts, while in shipbuilding it helps in the creation of new ship models and ongoing quality control of vessels already in use. Increasingly sophisticated applications of 3D scanners can be seen in the automotive industry, where they enable the creation of highly detailed car models and quality control of components, with implications for safety, driving comfort and CO2 emissions.  

3D scanning in automotive quality control 

3D scanning and modeling are technologies inherent in the automotive industry, where quality standards often determine the choice of a manufacturing partner. High-precision measurements of components with a 3D scanner make it possible to detect even the smallest deviation from specifications. Thanks to the detailed visualization of geometric models of parts, it is possible not only to identify possible defects, but also to make changes aimed at optimization. At the same time, the inspection process is faster and more efficient than traditional methods, which is important from the perspective of on-time delivery and consistency of quality. In the era of automation and robotization of production processes, very high efficiency is offered by the technology of automatic scanning with a special arm. In addition to static testing, it is also possible to carry out, for example, dynamic crash simulations or improve the aerodynamics of vehicles in special software, which would otherwise require the production of an actual prototype. A rather interesting area where 3D scanners find application is benchmarking. By being able to accurately compare samples of components produced by different Tier suppliers, for example, the OEM customer is able to choose the best product.  

Vision systems for quality control – 3D scan vs. other methods 

3D scanning stands out among other quality control methods because it captures the geometric data of a component in great detail. Such capabilities are not provided by traditional measuring tools such as calipers or micrometers. CMMs (Coordinate Measurement Machines) have a similar application, but they have their limitations in terms of high cost and the need for initial calibration. 

Advantages of 3D scanning in quality control 

3D scanner used by IdLab
3D scanner used by IdLab

3D scanners allow easy, instant and extremely precise measurements of part geometry and shape as well as their visualization. Special quality control software automatically compares the product scan with the digital 3D model, detecting any deviations and generating a measurement report. In the fully automated 3D scanning process, an automatic decision is made to accept or reject the object as defective. This allows any problems to be corrected at an early stage, resulting in less waste. In an optimal case, it is also possible to indicate how to improve the performance of the component. 3D scanners can be easily moved and used in various locations, including hard-to-reach places, which confirms their flexibility and versatility. The technology makes it possible to map production, optimize production processes and increase the efficiency of the entire production line. In addition, 3D scanners allow the creation of CAD models from already existing objects in the process of reverse engineering. This is very useful, for example, when restoring antique car parts or needing to improve existing components. 

Read also: What are the key techniques of lean manufacturing?  

Other quality control methods and their limitations 

Another frequently used quality control technology is pulse and scanning coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). These devices are equipped with a probe stylus and specialized software that records points in a coordinate system, creating a three-dimensional geometry of the part being measured. They also allow geometric analysis, comparing the part with a reference model and detecting deviations from the model. The drawback here, however, lies in their high investment cost. Moreover, their calibration requires extensive knowledge and experience. Another solution used in the quality control process are piezoelectric sensors used to measure force, stress and acceleration. Their central component is a quartz crystal, which generates an electrical signal corresponding to the applied mechanical force. A considerable disadvantage of this solution is its high susceptibility to external conditions. Any changes in temperature or humidity can affect the accuracy of the measurements, making it necessary for the sensors to be regularly calibrated. The most traditional dimensional inspection instruments are calipers and micrometers, which require manual operation and are thus unsuitable for mass production. The automotive industry also uses 2D scanning, which involves obtaining two-dimensional images or maps from the surface of objects using various devices such as lasers, cameras or optical scanners. This method also allows verification of dimensions, detection of scratches or irregularities, but is not suitable for analyzing complex components.

Challenges in quality control in the automotive industry – how does 3D scanning help? 

With the increasing complexity of components and the continuous implementation of innovations in the automotive industry, flexible and innovative quality control methods are becoming increasingly important. 3D scanning technology is the perfect answer to this challenge, as it enables the simultaneous acquisition of multiple dimensions of an object in a relatively short period of time. This makes it possible to speed up and increase the reliability of the quality control process and, consequently, of the entire production. 3D scanners generate high-resolution digital models. This makes it possible to detect any irregularities – both in the geometry and structure of the object under examination. This is especially useful for quality control in the production of plastic components, which can have very complex shapes and be composed of very small details. The data acquired through scanning makes it possible to analyze deviations and identify weak points in production. This then allows for systematic optimization of manufacturing and reduction of defect levels, resulting in lower costs and less waste.  

You may also be interested in: How to increase efficiency in the automotive industry? 

Precision 3D scanning: Highest quality standards at Knauf Industries Automotive 

As a trusted partner for manufacturing companies, Tier1 suppliers and OEMs, we not only offer high-quality, innovative solutions in ultra-lightweight expanded polypropylene (EPP) and expanded polystyrene (EPS), but also we are experts in 3D scanning . It enables precise reproduction of components based on already existing parts, preparation of project feasibility studies, as well as precise quality control analysis. With state-of-the-art measurement laboratories, 3D scanners and digital design services, we guarantee high precision, speed and reliability of processes. With 3D scanning and modeling, we can furthermore propose optimization changes. This significantly saves time and resources that would have to be spent on traditional prototyping. We have also successfully used 3D scanning to research new materials and technologies. With the experience we have gained, we help our customers become more innovative and competitive, which is a prerequisite for success in the automotive industry. Our facilities meet all the demands of quality certification systems required in the automotive industry, so we are able to remain a reliable partner you can trust. 

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