Freedom to Measure Automotive Sheet Metal Tooling

With some 2400 employees, Volvo Car Body Components (VCBC) in Olofström, Sweden, is an automotive production plant that produces millions of car body parts every year. From hoods and roofs to doors and subassemblies, the facility is dedicated to pressing sheet metal into vital car components that are shipped whole or partially assembled to Volvo car factories around the world for final assembly and finishing.

The modern, high-tech and environmentally friendly factory in Olofström has a history going back almost 300 years – it was first established as an ironworks in 1735 and has delivered body parts for all Volvo cars since 1927. Since being purchased by Volvo in 1969, the last 50 years have seen the site dedicated to the pressing and partial assembly of car body parts for Volvo’s complete range of vehicles, as well as for external customers such as Volvo Trucks, Ford and Land Rover.

The earliest production stages of the car design process at Volvo rely heavily on the development of the sheet metal stamping tools designed and manufactured by the Tool and Die team at Olofström. The team is first responsible for producing tool prototypes, and with up with up to 80 tools needed for a vehicle project this can be four-to-five-month task. Each project typically runs for a year, and the remainder of the time is dedicated to producing the final tooling that will be used to press hundreds of thousands of car body components.

The Leica Absolute Tracker AT960 is used to measure car body partsIn 2018, the team decided it was time to introduce a modern metrology solution to their tool prototyping and production with the goal of improving productivity. They identified several key steps in their design, production and validation process that could potentially benefit from the introduction of advanced measurement devices. Having a large and well-equipped quality room already in place, the team was familiar with a wide range of metrology hardware, from horizontal arm CMMs to structured light scanners. They were open to considering a number of the different systems currently available on the market, but one of their key considerations was identifying a solution that would be as at home on the shop floor as it was in the quality room.

With several Leica Absolute Tracker systems already in use in the main part production areas of the Olofström plant, the site’s existing internal expertise combined with the well-known portability and flexibility of Absolute Tracker systems made choosing additional laser tracker systems from Hexagon a natural next step.

Improving The Initial Casting

The first step in producing a designed prototype or final tool is the precision milling of a casted block of raw material. Casting is not a precise process, and the casted part is typically delivered with a lot of excess raw material which must be subsequently milled down to the correct size and shape with a CNC milling machine.

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