Sensor-packed robot arms create a three-dimensional image of the car.
Codenamed G30, the next-generation 5-Series Sedan will not be revealed this year, but at least BMW is making the wait a tad easier by releasing pseudo teasers. Here we have a camouflaged near-production prototype of the executive midsize sedan flanked by large robotic arms. These are fitted with a number of sensors in charge of generating a 3D image of the car which serves as foundation for a three-dimensional data model with an accuracy of less than 100 µm (0.1 millimeters). Doing so allows BMW to spot even the tiniest deviations in an early stage and then iron these out to boost the car’s overall quality.
The 2017 5-Series will actually be the first car in the world to take advantage of the technology and BMW has been using it since last year in Munich for individual sheet-metal parts and tool inspection. Now, a car is the subject of the fully-automated optical measuring cell to help BMW remove all the quirks before 5-Series’ production debut.
While we had our hopes to see the car at the beginning of October in Paris, the latest report indicates BMW will unveil the next 5-Series in January 2017 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The sedan will be the first to come out and is going to be followed several months later by the wagon and eventually by a new Gran Turismo since people in China love it.
The design will basically be an evolution of today’s model, but that won’t be the case with the underpinnings since the new 5 will switch to the CLAR platform that has underpinned the flagship 7. That should bring an estimated weight loss of around 220 pounds (100 kilograms) which will improve not only efficiency, but also performance.
Gallery: 2017 BMW 5-Series prototype receives robot 3D mapping for quality
The virtual new BMW 5 Series: High-precision, fully-automated measuring technology generates 3D data model of upcoming generation
The BMW Group is the first automobile manufacturer to introduce a unique system concept with a fully-automated, optical measuring cell in its pilot plant in Munich. Freely moving robot arms use sensors to create a three-dimensional image of the entire vehicle and generate a 3D data model from the data captured, with an accuracy of less than 100 µm. This allows barely visible deviations to be identified at an early stage.
The optical measuring cell is deployed at the interface between development and series production. It forms part of the BMW Group’s digitalisation strategy for production and supports the high quality standards for production of premium vehicles. The next generation of the BMW 5 Series Sedan will be the first to benefit from this new technology.
Eduard Obst, Head of Geometric Analysis, Measuring Technology and Cubing, Total Vehicle, explains: “We are delighted to reach this genuine milestone in preproduction with the optical measuring cell: A single measurement provides us with a 3D data model of the total vehicle. Lengthy individual measurements and data collation are no longer needed – saving time and enhancing quality at the start of series production.”
A robot arm on rails mounted on each longitudinal axis of the optical measuring cell moves freely as it maps the vehicle in complete space. Occupying a relatively small area, this set-up allows two small, flexible robots to be used in parallel in an optimum working range. Compared with previous processes, in which robots use a single sensor to record one side of the vehicle after the other, measurements now only take around half the time and are completed within just a few days.
The robots are fitted with two sensors that record reference points and then capture individual surface areas of approx. 80 x 80 cm each. These are combined to form a scan of the entire vehicle. Analysis of the data quickly reveals any deviations, allowing technical integration specialists in the Production division to take appropriate action early on.
Three-dimensional vehicle scanning can be fully automated and performed at off-peak hours or at night, so the measuring cell can be utilised to full capacity. With results delivered promptly, update cycles are shorter or no longer needed. The measurement data and analysis findings are shared online within the production network and also made available to the plant responsible for series production to assist with their preparations.
The fully-automated optical measuring cell is gaining increasing importance within the BMW Group. This technology has been successfully used in toolmaking in Munich since 2015 for complete measurement of individual sheet-metal parts, as well as tool inspection.
The BMW Group is currently exploring the use of automated optical measurement at its automobile plants.