In The Details: Sub-Micrometre Accuracy Measurement For Steering Wheel Components

  • Tuesday, 25 July 2017 09:11

Accuracy in the manufacturing of components in the steering wheel system is essential in enabling optimal steering performance. Therefore, it is important to select a measuring instrument capable of accuracy on the nanometre scale. Contributed by Carl Zeiss

Automotive supplier TRW Automotive manufactures braking, steering and suspension systems, as well as occupant protection systems and vehicle electronics. The company supplies parts for around 250 different vehicle models and more than 40 car makers. Around 1,000 of the company’s 65,000 employees produce steering systems in the Polish cities of Bielsko-Biała and Czechowice-Dziedzice.

Production Quality

Jarosław Muchajer, a quality manager at the company, is responsible at the company’s Bielsko-Biała site in Poland for the one of the most complex and expensive component of a vehicle after the engine: the steering system.

The manufacture of the individual components is therefore monitored down to the last detail. If the measurement results exceed the tolerances of just 0.1 micrometre, production has to stop. This safety measure can quickly result in exorbitant costs. This led the company to look for precise measuring equipment and 24-hour support from the manufacturer.

Looking For A Solution

When the Bielsko-Biała factory opened in 2012, plant managers drew on their own experience when the time came to select the coordinate and surface measuring systems.

They selected a surface measuring instrument from Zeiss, called the Surfcom 5000. Using five lasers on its interferometer, the unit was able to measure with accuracy levels of around 0.31 nanometres on average. The unit also has a ratio of the measuring range to resolution of approximately 42 million to one. If there were any problems, service staff was also able to be contacted 24 hours a day.

Part Of The Production Process

“Our measuring process is part of the production process,” explained Tomasz Wadon who is in charge of the measuring lab in Bielsko-Biała. With the measuring units and support, quality assurance at the facility was able to be run around the clock.

Steering Systems Market

According to a market report by research firm MarketsAndMarkets, the steering market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.47 percent from 2016 to 2021, to reach US$42.77 billion by 2021.

The Asia-Oceania region is estimated to lead in the market in terms of growth rate during the forecast period. The increasing demand for automotive comfort and safety is a key driver of the steering market.

The majority of new cars sold today feature Electric Power Steering (EPS). The market for EPS systems is estimated to grow at a high CAGR, owing to the increasing production of passenger cars and sports utility vehicles (SUVs). The EPS market is primarily driven by the rising demand for fuel efficiency and the growth of the automotive industry in emerging economies.

Asia-Oceania comprises some of the fastest growing economies in the world, including China, India, and Indonesia. The region has the highest vehicle production in the world, due to its sizeable population and increasing disposable income. The growing population, increase in per capita income, and improving standard of living have contributed to the growth of the automotive industry in Asia Pacific.

The key automotive market in this region is China, which produces the highest number of passenger cars in the world. Given that the steering market is directly dependent on vehicle production, Asia-Oceania has emerged as the fastest growing market for steering systems, in terms of value as well as volume.

APMEN Metrology & Design, July 2017

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