Automotive Industry: Testing is a Key Factor for Quality Requirements
Over the past decade, there have been many high-profile recalls in the automotive industry. Recalls often come after part failures in the field, which not only can endanger lives, but are costly and can damage your good reputation. This leads to Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) demand the highest quality components throughout the supply chain.
Many studies and market analysis report a positive trend for the automotive industry, in terms of growth prospects and opportunities for the coming years, at least until 2025, despite substantial differences in the different geographical areas. Every automotive material and component must undergo rigorous testing and meet the highest industry and legal requirements. A wide range of analytical services – OEM testing specifications, national (BS, ASTM, DIN, JASO) and international (ISO, EN, SAE) standards – are needed to ensure a high-quality finished product that meets the intended specification.
Among the most relevant technological challenges are outlined the autonomous driving, connectivity and the electric mobility, all aspects that will an exponential growth of artificial intelligence in the car of the future, which will be increasingly able to provide services not strictly related to transport, but dedicated to infotainment and networking capabilities. These services range from the multimedia management of the smartphone and of the navigation system, to the usability of information related to tourism, traffic, entertainment, shopping and emergency. Naturally, the car manufacturers will also enhance the hazard warnings, as well as the focus on interior car safety.
The quality of the implemented solutions
To achieve the result, the automotive component manufacturers must resort to all of the best solutions available on the market, from the best chip suppliers all the way up to the best manufacturing strategy. The decisions concerning test are clearly an important part of this last consideration.
It is essential for the players in the industry, as well as for those who manage the issues of internal test, to locate the most suitable and qualified partners to implement the solutions needed to keep up with the consumer world. This is especially valid when talking of automated test equipment.
Compared to other sectors, the test process in the automotive industry consists of a set of test solutions which are very articulated within the production line. Great attention is placed in the organization of the test sequence, with the goal of achieving the 0ppm goal (0 faulty parts per million of products).
When the assembly process of the electronic circuits is completed, the first test stage is in-circuit test. This step may also include the task of programming micro-controller as well as the related device-embedded memories to guarantee the availability of the proper code. In many cases, these two operations are integrated into the same system, if the time-cycle of the line allows it, with the aim of reducing the number of required tasks.
The next stage is the functional testing of the product before it is completely assembled with all of its parts, including the mechanical ones. For example, weathering testing – the aim is to simulate the effects of rain wetting a material, followed by the sun’s radiation drying the material. The exposure cycle (including periods of light exposure alternating with darkness) will be dependent upon the specific method employed. Here the aim is to assess the compliance of the product itself to the defined operational specifications. However, the advantage of carrying out this type of test at this point is the optimized accessibility to the circuit under examination, allowing better diagnosis of the known critical conditions.
Once it is completely assembled, the product is subjected to an additional test before it’s sent to the customer for installation in the vehicle. This station, commonly defined as End-of-line, aims to assess the product in its final configuration, with normal access via its external connectors, which partially limits the diagnostic options. This stage normally requires the integration of additional, specific instrumentation, able to appropriately simulate the sources external to the product. The use of resistive loads or GPS simulators are common examples of specific instrumentation .
Finally the product is inserted into another test station, where it is subjected to a prolonged stress cycle in the real operating conditions of the device. This way it is possible to diagnose possible endemic problems or those categorized as “infant mortality”, that is, those which occur when the product is first subjected to real component strain. Given the typically long cycle times of this type of test, this may be applied on a “sample” basis, rather than the total number of devices manufactured.
What makes the situation even more complex is the need to manage multiple variants of the same product, not only for different models of vehicle, but also based on the final market where the product is sold, in addition to the not less important requirement of complete traceability of all the stages of the process to enable fast intervention in the event of critical situations (for example, a recall campaign).
In order to reach the required 0ppm target, it is necessary not only to address defects related to the assembly process implementing the aforementioned solutions, but also to reduce to a minimum the chance of human error by the operators working in the line. These so-called fool-proof solutions start, for example, by limiting the opportunity to insert the product on the wrong fixture, then ensure the activation of the correct test program sometimes arriving at the complete automation of the process using in-line systems.
Along with maximum performance, the tester should also be engineered to optimize system ergonomics with respect to operator comfort and the precepts of lean production, with the flexibility to allow the introduction of new solutions to better meet the requirements of the industry customers. Not less important is the necessity to guarantee high test throughput to comply with the increasingly stringent production cycle-times.
QUALITY REPORT has consolidated experience in testing Automotive Specifications, and Standard Tests, and carries out testing in accordance with recognized specifications and test methods to ensure a high-quality finished product.