Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has invested extensively in cutting-edge production and quality systems that ensure its vehicles meet the most stringent of standards.
One of the key technologies, introduced in 2019 into its Silverton Assembly Plant’s Paint Shop in Pretoria, is an advanced Paint Defect Detection system. This fully automated and computerised system scans the paintwork of every vehicle body and is able to detect even the smallest paint imperfections.
“The launch of the Paint Defect Detection System was a major milestone for our Silverton plant, as it significantly ramped up the quality of our Paint Shop, and complemented our major investment in 2018 to completely automate our painting process with 62 robots,” says Ockert Berry, vice president of operations at FMCSA.
“We used an established paint inspection system employed by Ford’s leading plants in the United States and in Europe, but went a step further by incorporating a tailgate scanner for the Ranger pickup, which was a first for a Ford plant globally,” he states. “The new system resulted in significant gains in final quality and improved customer satisfaction for all of our locally assembled Ranger and Everest models.”
The Paint Defect Detection is a fully automated process that uses a specially developed light tunnel equipped with 21 high-resolution cameras. It relies on a three-dimensional imaging system, which applies varying degrees and angles of light, while performing microscopic scans of each painted vehicle surface to detect any imperfections that might have occurred during the painting process.
Over 3 000 images are captured in 15 seconds for every vehicle body produced, which are then stitched together for a full 3D image that is digitally compared to a perfect computer model. The 3D rendering highlights dirt particles or surface imperfections by size (finer than a grain of salt) and its precise location. These are then attended to by skilled production operators along one of two manicure lines before final inspection and sign-off, after which the body can proceed to the assembly line.
The paint inspection technology is fully integrated into Ford’s global production quality database for its manufacturing operations, which is accessible from anywhere in the world via the company’s secure intranet. It links the images taken and the imperfections detected with the vehicle identification number (VIN) for full traceability and quality assessments.