Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


OPTIBLANKS Report Summary

Project ID: 778392

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OPTIBLANKS (Hybrid EMAT-Vision solution for OPTImisation of advanced manufacturing process of automotive tailor welded BLANKS)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Tailor Welded Blanks (TWBs) are implemented wherever a vehicle needs to be safer and lighter. These structural parts are made out of two or more separate pieces of flat material, dissimilar thickness or mechanical properties, welded together before being stamped to provide customized and superior qualities. Seam-welding is considered the most critical step of the TWBs manufacturing process and weld-defects result in the majority of TWB part rejections, costing European automotive manufacturers more than 9.000 Tons of wasted materials/year.
In order to optimize part rejection criteria, reduce manufacturing costs and eliminate broken parts during the TWB manufacturing process Innerspec, the global leader in automotive TWB inspection, is developing OPTIBLANKS, a hybrid novel solution which combines two non-destructive inspection technologies for weld seam quality control.
The OPTIBLANKS project main objective is to optimize the TWB welding process by reaching over 95% defect detection (therefore, enhancing TWBs quality and safety), increasing inspection speed up to 60 m/min, reducing inspection costs by 50% (reducing materials waste and fulfilling all inspection requirements with a single solution) and providing TWBs manufacturers with valuable process control data.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first year of the OPTIBLANKS project, Innerspec has successfully completed all tasks foreseen in the work plan including planning of first onsite system trials which will be carried out by the end of 2018 at customer facilities.
At project launch, Innerspec carried out a study gathering all defects likely to appear in welds during the seam welding process. This process was based in multiple information provided by end-users over the last years. Based on this information and customer feedback, Innerspec confirmed the optimal components to be used in the final hybrid architecture.
In parallel to the selection and optimization of hardware, Innerspec completed the new Hybrid software architecture and developed advanced signal processing and decision-making algorithms to reach a probability of detection close to 100%.
Once these tasks were completed, Innerspec merged and comprehensively tested the OPTIBLANKS final software and hardware using TWBs from production plants. Trials were performed in order to find incompatibilities and mitigate them. At this stage of the project, Innerspec also developed the results analysis intelligence.
Regarding the optimization of OPTIBLANKS manufacturing model, during this first half of the project, Innerspec has launched negotiations with several OEMs to optimize system costs. Furthermore, lead times and stock availability are being analysed in order to secure product launch. In addition to this, a variety of promotion and distribution models are also being evaluated.
On the commercial side, Innerspec has been very active during the first part of the project by carrying out different dissemination activities while starting to maintain communications with customer for initial system trials and first prototype sales. Some of the dissemination activities carried out during this period include:
- Publication of OPTIBLANKS project via Innerspec´s LinkedIn channel.
- Development of dedicated Optiblanks area at Innerspec´s website.
- Development of dedicated product website:
- Development of technology explanatory video and publication in YouTube and project website.
- Development of project brochure and dissemination across several industry relevant associations in Spain and Europe.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

On average, between 5-9 TWBs are utilised for each light vehicle, resulting in a production of 120 million TWBs in Europe and 200-250 million TWBs worldwide per year. This represents an estimated annual consumption of more than 300.000 Tons of raw materials.
In order to optimize the TWB manufacturing process, reduce raw material scrap rate and optimise material usage, the industry requires 100% inspection of autogenously laser welded parts to identify defects.
Nowadays, TWB manufacturers need to use different inspection technologies from different providers in order to ensure weld quality control, leading to cost increase and longer production line shutdowns due to maintenance works and rejection rate increase, as well as increased part rejection rates.
OptiBlanks will reduce materials waste leading to economical direct savings of more than 50.000€ per system per year and will reduce inspection costs by 50%.
TWB manufacturing lines with independent inspection systems installed in series show a scrap rate ranging 2-3%, due to the addition of systems false-positive rates. On average, this signifies 85.000€ of material loss per year per welding line. With an integrated Hybrid system, the interpretation of both technologies will be merged into a single processor and the discrimination algorithms will help to optimize material usage. Furthermore, when results from Hybrid technology are used to set welding parameters, the current manufacturing scrap rate can be reduced down to 0.5% or less.
OptiBlanks will guarantee TWBs high quality, allowing manufacturers to provide products meeting the most stringent standards thus avoiding customer claims or returns when weld quality is not enough to resist stamping process. Most importantly, high quality materials will avoid that defective parts reach our cars, securing car frame structural strength in accidents.

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