At its headquarter facility in Bockenem in the German federal state of Lower Saxony, Meteor produces sealing profiles for vehicle doors, windows, trunks, trims and other parts of the passenger compartment on 14 highly efficient manufacturing lines. “We are experts for demanding sealing systems of high complexity,” says Marvin Ludwig, Manager Process Technology & Digitalization at Meteor. At Bockenem about 1000 employees perform research, develop new materials and produce sealing systems for customers in the automotive and other industries. “The extrusion facility is the beating heart of this location.”
The sealing systems produced in Bockenem are designed to meet the extremely exacting demands of the customers of European premium vehicle producers. “Our sealing solutions and the materials we use are of the highest quality, meeting the exceptionally high quality standards in this sector,” explains process specialist Ludwig. This is one reason why Meteor’s list of references reads like a Who’s Who of premium car producers – including Daimler, BMW, Porsche, Bentley and Rolls Royce. The quality of the products made by Meteor is literally “eye-catching”. “You immediately see our seals when you open the door of your car. The scrutiny of the car driver is the most important quality test for us,” continues Ludwig.
Therefore, surface inspection is a crucial task for Meteor. For its production lines, the company uses measuring and inspection systems from PIXARGUS. The ProfilControl DualVision systems, for example, detect even the tiniest surface irregularities, such as specks or blisters caused by the compound or the gluing and flocking processes. The defects are marked inline, i.e. during the production process, and the affected products are immediately removed. The good products undergo additional random checks in the in-house test lab. “The PIXARGUS system is undoubtedly the most important element of our quality control routines,” says Ludwig.
In addition to their impeccable appearance, the functionality of the seals must be just as perfect. Therefore, the inline inspection systems from PIXARGUS also measure the contour of the profiles with the highest precision. “To assure that no moisture or dust can enter the vehicle, the sealing and locking forces must perfectly match the application,” explains Ludwig. “If the door seal is too thick, you have to apply extra force to close the door. If the seal is too small, it doesn’t provide the appropriate sealing effect. Therefore, it is essential for us to measure the contour of each profile exactly.”
Currently, 23 PIXARGUS inspection systems are in use along the manufacturing lines, which are several hundred meters long. Most of the systems are of the DualVision type. They combine surface inspection and dimension measurement within one system. “Every meter of space that we can save using these highly compact dual-purpose systems is helpful,” Ludwig adds.
The recipes for the wide range of sealing profiles extruded are produced in Meteor’s in-house compounding shop. Meteor specializes in the processing of elastomer combinations. Profiles consisting of several different rubber compounds and extruded in a single process constitute a major part of the production. “The values we get from the PIXARGUS systems are extremely useful, especially for these products. If we start a new compound lot and the PIXARGUS systems detect several defects at once, we know that there is a problem with that particular lot”, says Ludwig.
Recently, Meteor has been making major investments in the digitalization of its production processes: control systems now track production along all process stages, from compounding up to the final extrusion product. The inspection systems are linked to higher-level control systems, and the quality data they measure serve as key control parameters. “The geometry and surface data provided by the PIXARGUS systems enable us to understand every detail of our process chain and to optimize processes where and when necessary,” says Ludwig, explaining the benefits of the systems.
Marvin Ludwig, who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering and extensive experience in materials science, joined Meteor four years ago. He has been in charge of Process Engineering at Meteor for almost two years. “A lot of things are changing in the production world. We are using new processing methods, and Industry 4.0 is a central topic for all of us,” Ludwig comments, summarizing the current situation. For 25 years, PIXARGUS has been a key supplier to Meteor. Last year, when the sealing experts were planning to invest in new measuring technology, Ludwig also decided in favor of PIXARGUS as their system supplier.
Before the purchase decision was made, PIXARGUS Sales Manager Michael Frohn and his team demonstrated their best-selling system, ProfilControl 7, at Meteor in Bockenem. “With this latest system generation, we have taken inspection to the next performance level,” Frohn states. “It is now possible to also detect flat and oblong topographic defects, which are extremely difficult to see, much more reliably.” These systems are even more compact than the previous generation, and for the most part self-adjusting. For Meteor, this provides the benefit that the systems can be set up with minimum effort, networked extremely easily with the production control system and swiftly reset for use on a different line. During all these activities, PIXARGUS is available to support the customer with comprehensive service. “We want to make it as convenient as absolutely possible for our customers to integrate our systems into their production lines and use them in the most flexible way on different lines,” states Frohn. “In the future, it will even be possible to commission the PIXARGUS systems without on-site support from a technician. In a nutshell, Michael Frohn says: “Our target is to offer true Plug & Play technology. We are very proud of our longstanding cooperation with the sealing specialists from Bockenem. Meteor was one of our first customers,” he adds.
Marvin Ludwig from Meteor is convinced. “All users, whether line operators or quality specialists, can handle the systems with ease. The software is very intuitive.” According to him, the quality of the PIXARGUS service and the company’s response times to service requests in the event of a failure are “really good” - with the failure rates being “very low” in any case. “Most importantly: quality control gets straight to the point. The systems detect what we want them to detect. One of many reasons why we have been using systems from PIXARGUS for 25 years,” Ludwig concludes.