Industry 4.0 Quality assurance for modern industry

More than 100 years ago, when Henry Ford introduced the assembly line in his factory, he changed the working world. Today, the industry is facing another revolution, and it demands measuring instruments that can do more than just measure.

Industry 4.0 Quality assurance

When Henry Ford first outfitted his factory with conveyor-belts over 100 years ago in the USA, he could not possibly have imagined that, only a few generations later, there would be individually-configured cars rolling off assembly lines – entirely automated.This progress is in part based on ever-improving measurement technology, as the fourth industrial revolu­tion (Industry 4.0) demands measuring instruments that can do more than just measure.

Whether in the automotive, electronics or electroplating industry, robots are increasingly being utilized in areas where repetitive sequences must be carried out with precision and speed.Not only does this raise the quality, it also reduces costs, since the processes can be continually optimized under constant conditions. The same applies to quality control: as cycle rates go up and manufacturing plants become more networked, measurement technology must keep pace with better performance and integration capabilities.

High-tech strategy

Industry 4.0 also means increasing interlinkage between production processes and information technology: in the ‘smart factory’, the Internet of Things connects machines, measurement systems, components and products. At every step in the value chain, robots are communicating with measuring devices, and products. The German federal government is supporting such developments through its high-tech strategy. In 2014, it declared the digitization of the economy a high-priority task for the future. 



Industrial Revolution

  •  Industry 1.0
    At the beginning of the 18th century, Thomas Newcomen installed the first commercially-used steam engine to pump water from a mine shaft. His invention laid the foundation for the first industrial revolution, which took Europe by storm in 1784 with the advent of the mechanical loom.
  • Industry 2.0
    Then, in 1913, Henry Ford had the famous Model T built in assembly-line production. Over the years, manufacturing continually picked up speed until it took only 93 min­utes to manufacture a Model T.
  • Industry 3.0
    With the launch of the microchip, the working world was once again reinvented. Suddenly, in the factories of the 1970s, it was no longer technicians but programmers who were the most prominent professional group. 
  • Industry 4.0
    The internet is the birthplace of the fourth industrial revolution. In today’s smart factory, all the pieces of the value chain are ­linked together in the Internet of Things.


Batch size: 1 

One of the defining characteristics of Industry 4.0 is decentralization. Through the Internet of Things, each unit has access to all the data on a given workpiece. That enables decentralized decision making, and the production process becomes modularized.

In an ideal world, this would allow a customer to tailor his product. For example, a mobile phone could be painted in the customer’s desired color and engraved individually – just as a normal step in the production line. Yet, despite the greater product and process diversity, any single piece would still cost no more than mass-produced ones. 

Quality assurance in real time

Individualized manufacturing would enable a completely transparent production: when comprehensive data is available at each step, the finished product can be traced all the way back to the raw materials, if necessary.

For this vision to become reality, it requires a powerful and fully integrated testing system with interfaces to all control units. Quality assurance must be carried out in real time with­out holding up the process; sensors and measuring systems become the eyes and ears of the smart factory.

Fischer has been developing and producing highly advanced measurement instruments for over 60 years. Now, we are using our experience in measurement technology in the area of automation. With more than 300 installed inline systems worldwide, we offer sophisticated, automated measurement technology – from the standard unit to customized solutions.

Tactile coating thickness measurement

Especially in the automotive industry, quality management is already highly automated. With the FISCHERSCOPE MMS PC2, Fischer offers a very flexible system that employs diverse measuring methods for use at various stages of production. 

For testing bulky parts, the measuring process can be automated with the help of a multi-axis robot arm. For example, the thickness of galvanic coatings on car bodies can be determined quickly and precisely using the phase-sensitive method. Using a probe, the robot quickly scans a sequence of points, locating the correct position via image recognition.

In contrast to manual testing, the robot will always place the probe perfectly vertically, even on curved parts like fenders. These constant measuring conditions make it possible to uncover very fine differences in the coating quality and thus improve the painting process.

Automation in the electronics industry

Not all industrial robots are big and orange! In the electronics industry, automated sleds and handling systems are often used to protect fragile parts such as wafers from undue environmental influences. Silicon wafers are manufactured under cleanroom conditionsSilicon wafers are manufactured under cleanroom conditions. The X-RAY XDV-µ SEMI is a fully automatic test station in which these sensitive wafers can be measured precisely – and safely

Even though making wafers is vastly different from making cars: the quality assurance systems still must fit seamlessly into the production process. This is why we also equip our X-ray fluorescence devices with data interfaces for connecting to the PLC.

Fischer’s X-RAY XDV-µ SEMI is designed specifically to operate under clean­room conditions in wafer production. A robot automatically transfers the wafers from the cassette into the encapsulated interior of the measurement instrument with the utmost care and precision. Equipped with a high-­performance detector and microcapillary tubes, the X-ray fluores­cence device can perform very fine analyses like determining the material composition of solder caps or the thickness of the gold coating on plug contacts.

Efficient use of gold in electroplating

Many of the plugs used in modern electronics have an electroplated fin­ishing. In general, the high-value connectors are coated with gold, making them particularly corrosion-resistant.

To prevent the waste of expensive materials such as gold, one must closely monitor the thickness of the coating during the strip electroplating process. Fischer has more than 30 years of experience in this area of automation and, in the FISCHERSCOPE X-RAY 4000, it has created a system that is perfectly suited to this industry. For instance, we are the only manufacturer to offer a variety of statistical evaluation features that can significantly reduce the amount of gold consumed while ensuring the same quality of coating. That is unique in the market.


From the first discussion through to the phasing-out

In addition to these examples, Fischer serves many other industries with its automated measurement solutions. We place a great emphasis on service over the entire course of an inline measuring system’s life cycle. From the very first sales call through to the phasing-out of an instrument, Fischer service is tailored exactly to the needs of the customer. This makes it possible for modern factories to produce individual products around the clock while continuously monitoring quality.