American truck assembly, verified by LabVIEW and PXI

Freightliner LLC, the leading heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America, selected NI LabVIEW software and NI PXI-based hardware to replace a VME-based proprietary solution for verifying electrical assembly on its new line of heavy-duty trucks.

Using NI tools, Freightliner engineers integrated electrical test, machine vision and physical measurements into a system that not only ensures high-quality vehicles but also instructs operators on the correct assembly process.

“We set out to design a high-performance test system that would give us the flexibility of a completely off-the-shelf solution and provide both the open architecture and power for expanding the application in the future,” said John Rokus, manufacturing manager of Test and Technology at Freightliner LLC. “This system delivers on both requirements and the successful development is reflective of the valuable relationships Freightliner enjoys with both external and internal resources.”

Freightliner chose Wineman Technology Inc., a specialty machine designer and a leading National Instruments Alliance Partner, to create the test systems to meet Freightliner’s requirements.

Along with electrical and physical measurements, the new solution includes a machine vision system for inspecting fuse box assembly. This system features industry-standard cameras that were built into a custom fixture and coupled with software written in LabVIEW. The software communicates with the plant information system to acquire a build order specific to each truck. The software then graphically prompts the operator to place the fuses and relays in their proper positions in the fuse box or switch activation module (SAM). Once finished, the operator prompts the system to take a digital picture of the populated assembly and compares it to the computer-generated image of the build order to produce a pass or fail rating. In the event of a failure, the software locks the part in place and notifies the operator which fuse or relay has been placed incorrectly and graphically identifies the part and its correct placement.

Once the tests are completed, a Cumulative Offline Report provides an interactive resource for technicians to view results of all previous test systems for any given truck. A “to do” list is generated in the event that any test failures could not be repaired in station. In addition, if there are any special truck options that require additional setup or validation, this system compiles those requirements so that a technician can be sure to address them prior to releasing the vehicle.