Leading solutions in thermography, at the service of the Automotive Industry

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The automotive industry is one of the most important economic sectors in the world. Quality standards are increasing in line with production demand, which is why many car manufacturers use thermal imaging cameras for quality control.

Thermography is a fundamental tool to inspect, control and improve processes. In addition to being reliable tools and not requiring contact, thermal imaging cameras provide temperature measurements of an entire area, rather than specific points. Using the temperature map and using image processing algorithms, it is possible to determine error areas due to lack of material input, burnt or too cold welding points, etc.
In the automotive sector, thermography can be used in multiple applications, some of which we mention below:

Thermal radiation is present in all processes, so analyzing and recording it in detail is the key

Process and quality control: Process control involves measuring the temperature and identifying the shape of certain products on a production line so that they conform to specifications. Machine vision using visible can detect a production problem, but not thermal irregularities. In this sense, thermography provides much more information to production specialists and decision makers, adding a new dimension to computer vision. Thermal imaging cameras are used by many automobile manufacturers for quality control. New vehicles undergo a multitude of tests for this purpose. Typical applications include inspection of rear window heater, heated seats, exhaust covers, air conditioning vents, etc. Thermography is essential in durability and validation testing.

Forging hot stamping and forging: The hot forming process is based on combining a deformation operation of the base material (sheet or billet) at high temperature with a subsequent quenching treatment. When hot, the material is more ductile and the part deforms with lower forces. The subsequent rapid cooling gives it its high-strength martensitic structure. The microstructure and final properties of the manufactured part are strictly linked to a good control of the temperatures, times and applied deformations. Large temperature differences in the part or in the die during the process lead to the appearance of inhomogeneous deformations that can take the manufactured part out of its tolerances. To avoid this, a thermal monitoring of the hot forming cycles is required to evaluate the evolution of the temperature in the part before and after the deformation, as well as the correct cooling of the die.

Comparison of thermal dissipation between electronic circuits

Quality control for automotive components

Reducing the failure rate of a vehicle’s electronic components is essential. The only way to guarantee this reduction is to check each component individually for 100% guaranteed quality control. Thermography allows manufacturers of electronic components to detect hot spots, which is an indication of defective products.

Additive Manufacturing: Also known as 3D printing, it allows you to create parts directly from a digital model without the need for traditional subtractive machining tools and with minimal geometry limitations. Heat is an integral part of the additive manufacturing process and needs to be monitored to detect phenomena that have a direct effect on the quality and performance, both dimensional and mechanical, of the final product. Diagnosing thermal stress or distortions using typical contact sensors such as thermocouples, RTDs or thermistors, is difficult or even impossible. Thermal imaging cameras help to study the process and its thermal properties, correlating temperatures measured during the process with quality parameters of the finished product. With the help of thermography, porosities, delaminations, shrinkage, poor surface finishes or dimensional defects can be identified.

Heat treatments for monitoring the manufacture of metal parts

Heat treatment is used to alter the chemical and physical properties of manufactured metal parts, being able to monitor their hardness or lack thereof. One case in which thermography can be really useful is in the casting processes of steel mills, both in continuous and in mold. For manufacturers of iron parts in the automotive sector, knowledge of the temperature of the iron in the casting furnace is essential, since the filling temperature of the mold must be very precise to achieve the desired physical properties in the part. Currently, the temperature control in this type of process is carried out with probes or rods introduced into the liquid metal bath, which have considerable thermal inertia, being able to overheat the broth when the process is started from a cold state. . So the temperature obtained differs from that of emptying, which happens 5 to 10 minutes later. However, with thermographic cameras we obtain an instantaneous measurement during the pouring process, this being the real temperature of the broth, which allows us to operate with a much greater reaction margin and with complete savings in probes. Thermography measurement is not only capable of measuring up to 1700 ° C (with which certain metals are emptied), but it is also capable of carrying out this measurement in the safest possible way, remotely and without intervening in the process. The repeatability and quality of measurement is also high. In addition, with a thermography system it is possible to add functionalities, such as detecting in real time when the slag appears in the steel jet when filling the pot, to stop it before it falls from the ladle. A distinction is made by emissivity of the slag against the steel, marking the slag with a red isotherm.

bcb has developed a series of solutions aimed at both process control and traceability and quality management of the manufactured product. bcbMonitor 4.0 is a family of products that integrates in a single platform, multiple combinations of thermographic sensors, image management software and additional elements, to build a complete thermographic monitoring solution adapted to the needs of each particular application. You can also define regions of interest, record their evolution over time, schedule a selective recording of images or videos with radiometric data, configure alarms, etc. and communicate through the appropriate protocol (MODBUS / TCP-IP, EIP or others) with the process control system.

Javier Bezares Founder and CEO