AUDI AG’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, about
80 km north of the Bavarian capital Munich, is also home to the
Technical Development activities of the company with the familiar
Audi has become one of the world’s leading premium car brands. As such, it sets particularly high requirements for parts and components, whether supplied from outside or developed internally. Without the consistent use of a fast, mobile, contact-free and reliable measurement tool which is also able to generate visual images, top quality standards for manufacturing finish, vehicle safety and driving dynamics would be scarcely possible.
Thermography: a significant component of the measurement and testing process at AUDI AG
“We started making regular use of thermography in
1998,” recounts Norbert Arnold, who is responsible for thermography in
engine development. “Both highly sensitive long-wave cameras and
short-wave cameras are used.” The short-wave cameras are used in
particular for recording higher temperatures (up to 2000 degrees
Some 700 research engineers are involved in engine development work in Ingolstadt. All parts – from simple items such as transmission belts to complex ones such as turbochargers or catalytic converters – are thoroughly tested before they are cleared for production. “The thermographic catalytic converter test is an art in its own right,” says Arnold, who supervises over the measurement instruments and the measurement process. “We have to watch for an even distribution of heat at extreme temperatures. And the short-wave camera’s image frequency of 50 Hz allows us to visualise this.”
A thermal imaging camera is also used on the engine testbed. New engines are put to trial for heat build-up and distribution as well as the determination of the failure point. The camera’s ability to visualize operating cycles is particularly useful, also for other components. According to Arnold, this feature is especially valued by the development engineers.
Audi also uses a FLIR Systems infrared camera to
test interior furnishing materials such as leather, wood and synthetics
on wear and tear and material resistance, including under extreme
Excellent temperature resolution and a high degree of accuracy are vital
preconditions for all measurements. The automobile manufacturer’s thermal imaging cameras are covered by FLIR Systems’ Premier Service Package. “An investment,” concedes Arnold, “but it ensures both accurate measurements and the uninterrupted, problem-free deployment of our infrared cameras.”
Infrared forum at Audi
An initiative which underlines the importance of
thermography is the infrared forum. Some thirty infra-red camera
specialists from various sites meet regularly to exchange information
about the use of thermographic applications in the fields of interior
design, research and development, preventive maintenance and production.
The various departments and units draw up their own detailed emissivity
tables essential for precise temperature determination. They swap
techniques and tips for tackling problems with reflection from metal
parts. This knowledge flows into a database and hence into the
Volkswagen Group’s knowledge management process. Moreover, all infra-red
camera operators at Audi have attended ITC courses (Infrared Training
Center, an independent training institute providing certification) and
are certified Level 1 Thermographers.
The testing of supplied parts and internally developed engines using thermal imaging cameras is a costly process, but it helps, among other things, to prevent expensive product recalls. And above all, it ensures that an Audi continues to feel like an Audi.