To the prospective owner who tries out current models at several dealerships, small changes in the location of controls, parking brake, seat position or contour, or instrument panel position often tip the scale in favor of one car over another. To help automotive development engineers capture "the right feel," Prefix Corp. (Rochester Hills, MI) has patented an adjustable prototype development device called a Programmable Vehicle Model (PVM). The PVM is outfitted to appear like a vehicle. Each functional element (seat, roof pillar, steering wheel, etc.) can be moved to emulate different trial designs within ±1/2 mm. Positions of all the elements are monitored and updated with Prefix's control software. Individual elements are mounted on bearing rails using ball screws to move them, via stepper motors, in two or three dimensions. Thus, spatial relationships of, say, the seat to the instrument panel, can be adjusted so that visibility or knee room can be changed. A computerized measuring device, known as the FaroArm, made by Faro Technologies Inc. (Lake Mary, FL), confirms the ergonomics. The arm scans the previously positioned interior and creates a drawing of the desired interior package. FAX Stefanie L. Curylo at (407) 333-4181 (T).
Both traditional automation companies and startups are developing technologies to improve processes on the factory floor, while smart sensors and other IoT-related technologies are improving how products are handled during transport and across the supply chain.
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