Case Study: Inspection Machines Sort Out Production
When ammunition company Precision Ammunition was acquired by RUAG Ammotec USA (Tampa, FL), a division of RUAG Ammotec GmbH, in 2009, the manufacturer’s technologies were combined with facilities in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Hungary, leading to increased production volume. Initially, the company handled its inspections visually by using gaging. But as its output grew, the company began to incorporate increasing amounts of automation. RUAG Ammotec USA needed to revamp its quality control system.
RUAG Ammotec USA CEO Dan Powers already had a company in mind to help it with the upgrade. In 2007, Powers had witnessed a demonstration of General Inspection’s (Davisburg, MI) high-speed, laser-based sorting and inspection machines. With more than 600 installations worldwide and extensive experience in the ammunition industry, the staff at General Inspection recommended several solutions adapted to different stages of manufacturing.
“At the time, Dan and his company were making significant investments in automation machinery,” says General Inspection President Mike Nygaard. “With production quantities that can range up to 500,000 projectiles per day on one shift and 200,000 to 300,000 completed rounds, [RUAG Ammotec] needed inspection systems that could keep up with production volume and guarantee full inspection capability.”
Three Ammunition Inspection SolutionsA key part of the overhaul was the introduction of General Inspection’s Gi-200 laser gaging sorting system. Designed for inspection of projectiles prior to loading, the system is equipped with a one-profile, single laser measurement module. The totally automated machine measures lengths, diameters and tapers at rates up to 300 parts per minute. It has a 5-minute setup time and user-friendly controls, and measures each individual part and automatically segregates defective units.
RUAG Ammotec GmbH also found benefits with the laser-based Gi-360 system. The quantitative measuring system inspects fully loaded rounds and incorporates an array of lasers in a 360-degree configuration. Part characteristics and print tolerances are entered into the machine’s software once, where they are saved for recollection and part changeover. All external part geometries, including overall length, body diameters, tapers, extractor groove diameter, head diameter/height, length-to-shoulder, concentricity, radii and straightness can be measured at up to 300 parts per minute.
Designed for cases, cartridges and projectiles, the Gi-360 can inspect 300 parts per minute for small caliber ammunition, 40 to 120 parts per minute for medium caliber ammunition and is utilized after the loading of primer, powder and projectiles.
Another machine RUAG Ammotec added to its family was the Gi 6V, which was designed to catch all critical, major and most minor defects. The machine has a case vision inspection module consisting of eight cameras, five ring lights of various sizes and programmable light/dark defect searches. An array of lasers takes measurements 360 degrees around the part circumference.
The Mouth Vision option detects cracks and splits on the mouth, and the Primer Vision feature measures head diameter, flash hole presence, head stamp presence and primer pocket diameter. The unit can inspect 300 parts per minute for small caliber ammunition and 40 to 120 parts per minute for medium caliber ammunition.
Complete Profile InspectionRUAG Ammotec GmbH found success when it implemented the LaserLab into its automation processes. This 3-D inspection system is used in both statistical process control (SPC) and low-volume, high-value part inspections.
Like the Gi-360, the LaserLab incorporates an array of lasers positioned around 360 degrees. Designed for parts from 2 to 38 millimeters in diameter, measurement time ranges from 10 to 30 seconds per part. The part is fixtured by hand and remains stationary while undergoing laser scanning.
Parameters can be set in two ways: Either an initial part can be fixtured in the system and inspected, thereby creating a template in the LaserLab’s control against which other parts will be measured, or parameters can be input into the control prior to the first inspection. Graphic representations and numerical data are stored in the control memory and can be recalled at any time for future inspections. The 100% profile inspection covers all part characteristics including lengths, diameters, radaii, tapers, minimum/maximum material, thread concentricity and recess depth.
Before every scan, the LaserLab automatically calibrates itself via a NIST-traceable calibration device mounted directly on the machine. As a result, quality does not deteriorate over time or with changing environmental conditions. At RUAG Ammotec USA, the LaserLab is used to inspect casings or other components sourced from outside. In-process inspections of projectiles, loaded cartridges and casings are also easily accomplished over the multiple caliber and ammunition types.
Dramatic ResultsPowers says he and his staff have seen significant improvements from the new inspection systems. The company enhanced quality on its projectiles by 100%, with a 70% improvement on loaded ammunition, Powers notes. “We’ve also been able to check all values, [which is] extremely important to us,” he says.
“For instance, if LaserLab catches an error on our brass casings, we can recheck the dimensional values and correct the situation prior to loading,” he adds. “This has enabled us to improve our performance in pre-loading by 100%.
“In another instance, we were able to catch a problem in the machine set-up,” says Powers. “When we detected that one of our loading machines was damaged, we were able to fix the machine, thereby saving a lot of money and time.”
General Inspection Inc.