Original story in The Engineer magazine

BMW Group has revealed that it is using an advanced computed tomography (CT scanning) system for prototype development, production and analysis.

Until now, vehicles have had to be dismantled for analysis, but CT scanning allows checks to be carried out with the vehicle completely intact. The new X-ray system is based in the BMW Group Pilot Plant in the Research & Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Munich.

Commenting on the system Udo Hänle, BMW’s head of Production Integration and Pilot Plant said: “We can now analyse our prototypes in minute detail without having to dismantle them first. Ultimately, this will enable us to integrate new technologies into vehicles even faster. The use of this state-of-the-art system is a major step forward for us as [we] improve the quality of our products even further.”

Although the firm has been using CT and X-ray scans to check vehicle parts for a number of years, the latest system takes this capability to a new level and enables engineers to analyse vehicles right down to micro-metre level.

This degree of detail is required for a range of reasons, for instance to check welds and punch screw connections, and to verify body condition before and after painting, where extreme temperatures can affect adhesive bonds. Findings from the scan are then used as a basis for making targeted modifications to vehicle production.

The CT scanning itself is performed by four coordinated robots. Once the vehicle is in position the robots move around it. Working in pairs, they send X-rays through the vehicle and across to their counterparts. The data they collect is then put through a specially developed computer program which develops a multi-layered, 3D image. This forms the basis for a detailed analysis of the internal workings of the vehicle.

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