Car makers and their suppliers are expected to dramatically increase the
use of robotic leak-detection systems at their manufacturing and
final-assembly plants in the next five years.
INFICON, a major global supplier of leak-detection equipment, predicts
that on a global basis the percentage of automotive plants with robotic
leak-detection systems will jump from five percent today to 20 percent
or more by 2024.
The move to robotic testing is due in part to a growing interest in
electric, hybrid-electric and autonomous vehicles, according to Thomas
Parker, INFICON’s North American automotive sales manager.
“Electric vehicle (EV) traction batteries, fuel-cell membrane electrode
assemblies, autonomous vehicle LIDAR systems and other mission-critical
automotive components are on the industry’s ‘can’t-leak list’ globally,”
Parker noted. He spoke here at a recent (June 11, 2019) Automotive
Business and Technology Forum.
“The quality of these electric- and autonomous-vehicle components are
safety critical and must provide trouble-free service throughout the
life of a vehicle,” Parker said. “Whenever people put their lives in the
hands of a self-driving machine, for example, they expect it to work
He pointed out that the move to robotic leak detection helps eliminate
costly human error that occurs under repetitive-test conditions.
Properly designed robotic leak detection also can reduce costs, improve
quality and increase assembly-line speeds to produce a safer final
Parker explained that there are two basic robotic leak-detection methods
– static and dynamic. Static testing utilizes a robotic arm equipped
with a sniffer probe that moves to pre-determined points on a test
piece, then remains stationary for a defined period of time. Dwell times
are based on potential leak rates at each point.
With dynamic testing, a robotic arm moves the sniffer probe in a
continuous path along the part’s surface. Test accuracy is affected by
the distance maintained between the part and sniffer probe, the rate at
which the arm travels and the volume of air the probe can sniff during
the test. Dynamic tests can quickly check a relatively large area, while
still maintaining acceptable cycle times.
For more information about robotic testing, INFICON has published a
white paper that is available free of charge at Robotic
Leak Testing White Paper.
INFICON is one of the world’s leading developers, producers and
suppliers of instruments and devices for leak detection in air
conditioning, refrigeration and automotive manufacturing. The company
has manufacturing facilities in Europe, China and the United States, as
well as sales and service offices throughout the world. More information
about INFICON automotive technology is available online at www.inficonautomotive.com.