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Project Brief

Open Competition 3 - Information Technology

SOVA: Stream-of-Variation Analysis System for Multistage Assembly Processes

Develop a widely applicable computer simulation system for modeling, analyzing, predicting, and optimizing the performance of multistage manufacturing processes requiring accurate parts alignment to improve production and product quality.

Sponsor: Dimensional Control Systems, Inc.

580 Kirts Boulevard
Suite 309
Troy, MI 48084
  • Project Performance Period: 10/1/2003 - 11/21/2006
  • Total project (est.): $2,837,181.00
  • Requested ATP funds: $1,987,927.00

"Who could have predicted?" This lament is heard often during the launch of a new manufacturing and assembly process designed to deliver a wonderful new product to the consumer market. The joining of rigid parts with compliant or flexible parts often leads to unanticipated misalignments and other dimensional variations that accumulate and are increasingly compounded as the product moves down the assembly line. Dimensional Control Systems (DCS) will develop Stream-of-Variation Analysis (SOVA) to eliminate most of the costly trial-and-error fine-tuning of new-product assembly processes attributable to these unforeseen dimensional errors. SOVA, a modeling, analysis, synthesis and process control software system for variation management of multistage manufacturing processes, is intended to be a widely useful tool-set to be used throughout the assembly process from design through production. Implemented during the product design phase, the software will produce mathematics-based predictions of potential downstream assembly problems, based on evaluations of the design and a large array of process variables. By integrating product and process design in a pre-production simulation, SOVA can head off individual assembly errors that contribute to an accumulating set of dimensional variations, which ultimately result in out-of-tolerance parts and products. Once in the ramp-up stage of production, SOVA will be able to compare predicted misalignments with actual measurements to determine the degree of mismatch in the assemblies, diagnose the root causes of the errors, isolate the sources from other assembly steps, and then, on the basis of the SOVA model and product measurements, recommend solutions. These analytical, predictive and diagnostic capabilities are enabled by new variation modeling research by DCS and its collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If transferred to the manufacturing sector, such tools would deliver major benefits in terms of cost savings, productivity and quality improvements, and shortened product development cycles. For example, DCS estimates that SOVA could reduce the number of design iterations for each new product model. The company intends to demonstrate a complete package of SOVA tools at two U.S. auto assembly plants in 2006. The challenge of diagnosing root causes of variation for compliant parts as well as applying control-theoretic constructs to modeling and evaluation of dimensional variations are among the major technical hurdles that must be overcome. ATP funding will augment company resources devoted to developing the SOVA approach and proving its technical feasibility. Dimensional Control Systems has not been able to obtain external funding because of the high technical hurdles to be overcome and the longer timeframe for return on investment. Without funding, DCS estimates that these efforts could take up to 10 years.

For project information:
Ramesh Kumar, (248) 269-9777

ATP Project Manager
David Swanson, (301) 975-8984

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