Researchers at the Department of Chemical Engineering atCambridge University (Cambridge, UK) led by Dr. J. Axel Zeitler have been awarded a grant of over £240,000 to develop a terahertz sensor that can be used to measure the quality of paint coatings on automobiles.
Painting is an integral part of the manufacturing process in the automotive industry. The paint coats that are applied to modern cars comprise a complex structure of layers, with the integrity of each layer being of critical importance to the overall performance of the coating.
However, the current quality control strategy that is used to ensure the final integrity of the paint coat is a slow manual process that can only cover a limited number of sampling points on a few select automobiles per test cycle. The main bottleneck behind this lack of real-time testing capability is that there is no non-contact measurement technology presently available that is fast and accurate enough for the task.
Dr. Zeitler and his team plan to eliminate this bottleneck by developing a terahertz sensor that is capable of performing real-time measurements of the paint quality and layer integrity in real-time on a six-axis robot that can be directly employed in the spray booth of existing manufacturing lines.
Terahertz systems have already been deployed in a number ofpharmaceutical and semiconductor inspection applications where they have been used to penetrate materials to reveal the contrast of the internal microstructures of materials.
In previous work at the university, Dr. Zeitler developed a new in-line measurement technique to determine the coating thickness of individual pharmaceutical tablets during film coating in a pan coating unit using pulsed terahertz technology. Details of that work can be foundhere.
Dr. Zeitler's new project, which has been funded by the UK-basedEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC; Swindon, UK), will start on September 1 this year.
-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor,Vision Systems Design