Axle Gauging System
Robotics & Automation Engineering

image of Axle Gauging System in use

Axle Gauging System in use

A system to automatically inspect cold-extruded axle shafts for the automotive forging industry was developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). The axle gauging system (AGS) performs a noncontact inspection of in-process extrusions as they are manufactured.

The AGS repeatably and accurately measures runout at specified locations on the shaft, the flange, and the pilot, as well as measuring the shaft length. In addition, the system automatically reconfigures for multiple part numbers, rejects out-of-tolerance parts, and has a user-friendly interface for real-time display, historical trending, and diagnostics.

Axle Gauging System Background

An automated inspection method was needed for identifying axle shaft defects after the extrusion process and prior to the machining process. The existing method was to pull the shafts from the line and perform 100% manual inspection of shaft runout using dial indicators. This method was labor-intensive, prone to error, did not inspect all critical dimensions, and generated no historical trending data that could be used to improve the process. The new system needed to be integrated into an existing extrusion line in a very harsh environment. The system also had to be automatically configurable to handle a wide range of shaft sizes and geometries.

Solution for Axle Gauging System

The AGS measures runout of axle shafts using a set of downward looking laser displacement sensors, while a motor/gear/roller assembly rotates the axle. The length is measured using a linear variable displacement transducer (LVDT) sensor mounted within a pneumatic cylinder. The AGS automatically configures the shaft support locations and the measurement locations, which are specific to each part number. The system is integrated with the line's existing programmable logic controller (PLC) controls, and the out-of-tolerance shafts are rejected automatically. The AGS has a multiscreen LabView operator interface and control system. The interface screens can be used to monitor the real-time measurement activities, long-term trends, system settings, diagnostics, and other operational and maintenance settings.

Axle Gauging System Results/Outcome

The AGS has proven to be an accurate, repeatable, and reliable method for validating the quality of the extruded shafts. Implementation of the AGS provided significant savings in labor, scrap, and customer returns. This success led to the implementation of the AGS across multiple extruder lines, where they have been consistently running in the production environment for a number of years.

Related Terminology

noncontact inspection  •  non-contact inspection  •  axle shaft inspection  •  axle gauging system  •   Manufacturing Technologies  •  automation engineering

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.