Automatic surface inspection and rework in the paint shop, BMW Group plant Regensburg

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BMW Group Plant Regensburg has become the automotive industry’s first plant worldwide to use an end-to-end digitalised and automated process for inspection, processing and marking of painted vehicle surfaces in standard production. In an innovative new approach, AI-controlled robots process each vehicle individually to meet objective quality standards. This ensures more stable operations, shorter lead times and a consistently high level of vehicle surface quality. Data stored in the cloud also enables optimal analysis of causalities and therefore represents another step by the BMW Group towards the digital and intelligent connected factory referred to as BMW iFACTORY.

Painting, sanding, polishing – with artificial intelligence (AI) for unique processes

The scene resembles a well-rehearsed play: Four robots stand in the processing booth, surrounding a freshly painted body. As if on command, the robots begin working on the surface of the body. They sand it, apply the polishing compound, polish, change the attachments and switch out the sandpaper. Cameras track the scenario. “What is unique here is that the robots work on each body exactly where needed – because the tiny specks and bumps that can appear after the topcoat is applied and that we want to remove are in different spots on each vehicle,” explains Stefan Auflitsch, head of Production Paint Application and Finish at BMW Group Plant Regensburg. “Robots are normally programmed to follow the same pattern until they are reprogrammed. Using artificial intelligence allows them to work in a more tailored manner. With up to 1,000 vehicles going through the finishing process every working day, that adds up to 1,000 unique processes.”

Automated Surface Processing has been used in series production at BMW Group Plant Regensburg since  March 2022. The plant is the first car plant worldwide to use the AI-based process on this scale. To ensure everything runs smoothly, this step is preceded by another automated process that has been considered state of the art in the automotive industry for some time: The Automated Surface Inspection begins by identifying and recording the features that require processing after the topcoat has been applied

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