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In-Line Robot Inspection for Automotive

Body In White (InRob Project)

InRob was a Vinnova (Swedish Government) funded
project with Volvo Car Corporation, Scania, LK
Scandinavia, Fraunhoffer Chalmers Gothenburg,
Chalmers and Linkoping University, supported by Nikon
Metrology UK.

Fig 1. Nikon Metrologys Robot Integrated Laser

The project outline was for future production control in
Body In White, Coordinate Measurement machines
(CMMs) are perceived as too slow, too accurate, and
too expensive for in-line inspection. This project was to
deliver proof-of-concept that an in-line robotic inspection
system could be deployed in a fully automated / off-line
programmed way, and meet the needs of accuracy and
repeatability in Body In White assembly. The platform
used was Nikon Metrologys robot integrated laser
scanner (MMDx100).

3D CAD to nominal features and robot program

Starting with CAD nominal design (in this case CATIA
V5) Nikon Metrology supplied Chalmers with details of
its proprietary feature definition format. This gave a very
fast, open and simple transfer from Volvos own
metrology planning toolkit (GD&T) into Nikons analysis
software (Focus 10).

Fig 2. Off-line robot program

Working closely with Linkoping University and LK
Scandinavia, Nikon developed best practice guides
including optimal approach and angles for laser
scanning. This was used by Chalmers to optimise the
measurement sequence and give base robot program
for final verification in either a robot vender specific
simulation system or generic 3D CAD based simulation
system (using Realistic Robot Simulation technology).
In this project both ABBs Robot Studio and Dassaults
Delmia V5 were successfully used, providing a simple
method of creating robot programs and proving them

Scanner technology

For on-line inspection Nikon Metrologys MMDx100
laser scanner was used including its Enhanced Sensor
Performance (ESP) technology, changing the laser
power real-time for consistent data acquisition on shiny
and matt surfaces without data loss.

a) With ESP b) Without ESP (data loss)
Fig 3 Enhanced Sensor Performance (ESP)

Combined with its anti-reflection filters this gives
outstanding data acquisition even on highly reflective
sheet metal.

Fig 4 Shiny surface

a)Reflection Filter On b) Reflection Filter Off
Fig 5 Reflection Filter on shiny bowl

Working within the K-Series optical CMM working
volume, the scanner only acquires data where needed,
in any robot orientation in one unified coordinate
system. This gives great accuracy with low data sets,
meaning fast processing.

Fig 6 Nikons K-Series optical CMM dynamic tracking
laser scanner by IR LEDS on scanner housing in robots
working volume

Point Cloud Data

The point cloud data is acquired within the robots reach
inside the large volume of K-series optical CMM.

Fig 7 Raw scan data

For ultra-high speed inspection the acquisition can be
taken on one PC and the analysis on another. In this
case the analysis can take place at the same time as
the next scan. This also facilitates multi-robot inspection
in a single station; with each robot doing its own
aquistion but then passing the data to station PC to do
multi-robot inspection analysis.


The analysis is run as an automated script which is
programed once off-line, as a simple sequence within
Nikons Focus software.

Fig 8 Raw point Cloud imported into Focus analysis

Fig 9 Automatic filtering; further simplifying data set

The nominal features are then compared to the filtered
point cloud. This starts as an alignment based off
scanned tooling balls on the jig. This puts all the
measured features in the same coordinate system as
the car. Then the rest of the features are auto-detected
to CAD nominal.

Fig 10 Auto-inspect 2D shapes (circle above)

Fig 11 Auto-inspect 3D shapes (ChristmasTree above)

Fig 12 Auto-Inspect free-form surface (above shows
deformation near projection welds)

Integrated Solution

Putting this all together we successfully demonstrated
the automated workflow shown schematically below,
with the Nikon Metrology Automation Software at the
hub of the robot cell

Fig 13. Workflow

There is an automated route from CATIA, through the
metrology planning toolkit (GD&T) into Nikons
proprietary feature definition format (.mff) over local
network. Rules for scanner orientation angle, speeds,
directions are preset-based on best practice. These are
used in Chalmers software to optimize measurement
sequence, outputting to standard robot simulation
package to complete all programs off-line again
transferring full syntax programs over local network to
robot cell.
On starting a robot program the Nikon Automation
Software manages the interface between robot and

metrology system, based on its Adaptive Robot Control
(ARC) technology. The acquired point cloud is then
automatically processed filtering, auto defining alignment
features, aligning, and automatically comparing point cloud to
nominal features. Features inspected were a range of 2D
holes/slots; surface intersect points, and 3D weld bolts,
Christmas trees and T-Studs. Locally the features are
checked against tolerance warning limits for local cell
alerts, and output over local network in PCDMIS format for
bodyshop Statistical Process Control system

The repeatability of measurements was 60m 3; with
spatial accuracy within 100m within the robots working
volume. Final inspection accuracy compared to CMM touch
probing was 150m for 2D features such as circles and slots;
and 400m for weld bolts and Christmas trees again all 3.
This was all achieved in single pass at high speed. Of course
more passes and slower speeds improve accuracy but the
trade-off is longer cycle times. In this deployment inspection
times were approximately 2 seconds/feature.

Fig 14 Repeatability

The solution is available today on any robot platform. Using
Nikons ARC technology its possible to port to any robot in
less than two weeks. Currently there are fully working
interfaces with Fanuc, ABB, KUKA, and Siemens PLC.
Nikon continues to develop its fitting algorithms which are
shared across all technology platforms.

Other Applications

Fig 15 Composite aerofoils (no powder coating)

Fig 15 Fans (no powder coating)

Fig 16 Rohacell Foam

Fig 17 InRob test part