Germany - The OEM is now using computer tomography (CT) scans during the vehicle prototyping, production and analysis phases at its Research & Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Munich. This follows on from a two year development project, in which BMW and the Fraunhofer Development Centre for X-Ray Technology (EZRT) developed a new system - the only one of its kind in the automotive industry.

"The use of this state-of-the-art computer tomography system is a major step forward for us as it will help us to improve the quality of our products even further," commented Udo Hänle, head of production integration and the company's Pilot Plant at FIZ. "We can now analyse our prototypes in minute detail without having to dismantle them first. The new system allows us to examine our vehicles in a way that wouldn't be possible with conventional, static computer tomography systems. Ultimately, this will enable us to integrate new technologies into a series vehicles even faster."

With the new system, which uses four robots to produce several thousand cross-sectional images, the company is able to analyse prototypes "right down to micro-metre level," added Michael Koch, head of material and process analysis, BMW. This level of detail is needed to check the quality of welds and punch screw connections, for example.

It isn't the first time BMW has used CT scans for prototyping. However, Koch says that this level of detail has not been achievable before. The next step is to establish how artificial intelligence (AI) can be leveraged to evaluate the findings of the scans.