Ford’s 3D imaging produces better parts, quiet gears in F-Series

PPR technology_1BY GERRY MILES

Using technology it says is similar to Google’s Earth, using 3D mapping, Ford is using  the same technology to check the gears and axles manufactured for its F-Series trucks to provide a quieter ride for customers, ensuring greater reliability and fewer failures.

Ford’s photogrammetric pattern reader (PPR) uses a pair of digital cameras to combine photos of the axle gears into a series of 3D pictures that are compared against an ideal computer model of the gears. Gears that don’t meet spec are discarded.

“PPR technology is the next evolution in quality control for our commercial trucks,” said David Gravel, an engineer in Ford’s advanced manufacturing group. “While traditional, visual inspections of our axle gears ensure we’re delivering dependable, tough trucks to our customers, this new technology allows us to conduct our inspections faster, and at a level of detail the human eye just cannot discern.

Because the name eye can’t see the gear teeth that are produced, two cameras grab 9,000 1024×1-pixel images from each side of every gear tooth in a matter of seconds as the gears rotate.

The stitched images are compared against a digital model of the gear profile. Any parts showing any abnormalities with either noise or durability are discarded. Ford says that on average just 2 – 5 parts of every 1,000 are discarded for not meeting specs.

Ford’s system uses line scan cameras and infrared lights to turn a series of two-dimensional image slices into a single three-dimensional image for analysis. It was developed with Madison, Wis.-based Automated Vision and ATM Automation in Livonia, Mich.

“This technology is part of a trend where companies like Ford are using advanced automation to increase accuracy and consistency in production,” said Nan Zhang, a scientist at Automated Vision. “Computer vision is booming and is a very important topic for the next decade.”

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