Editorial Feature

The Perfect Paint Job using Ford's New Dirt Detection Technology

Examination of a vehicle’s paint coating is a rigorous and fundamental step in exterior assessment.  Being able to judge whether a vehicle’s exterior paint conditions - including chips or scratches on the surface to the body of the vehicle - has always been dependent on human-eye examinations.

However, this technique is outdated and does not give car manufacturers a clear and precise enough indication of whether the paint to a vehicle is in a satisfactory condition, which has led to an increase in rework time following manual inspection work.

Ford, one of Britain’s biggest car manufacturers, has developed a dirt inspection system that addresses concerns by customers about contaminants in vehicle paint work. As one of the world’s first paint inspection systems in place, car manufacturers across the globe will benefit from using this new technology to speed up inspection time and manage conventional quality control methods used to analyse process defects.

Bi-products of a painting process during the upkeep of a vehicle’s exterior frame that are too small to detect with the human eye can now be identified using a matrix of 16 high-resolution cameras controlled by a sophisticated computer system.

Ford have designed this system to generate a 3D model of a vehicle’s paint status by gathering 3,000 images in the space of 15 minutes to track tiny dirty particles smaller than a grain of salt that can compromise the quality of the paint on a vehicle surface. The following video by Ford demonstrates the new dirt detection technology in action:

Video courtesy of Ford.

The introduction of this technology offers a high-precision quality control option for the car manufacturing industry as it can help correlate quality control data with paint shop process parameters to avoid paint defects.

This technology could also help contribute to the color and appearance measurement (i.e., layer thickness) that takes place for vehicles forming part of a trial during the production stage. One of the most fundamental advantages in using this technology is the reduction in inspection time and thus reduction of costs, which minimizes rework.

Based on customer warrant data for the F-series models produced at Ford’s plant in Dearborn, Mich, customer complaints have reduced by 82 per cent, which is a dramatic improvement in customer feedback on paint quality of their vehicles. This technology is a fantastic example of how integration of sophisticated optical science technology into manufacturing and inspection processes has started to transform and improve the car manufacturing industry and its products.

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