Thousands of leak tests to assure product quality take place on a daily basis at supplier facilities and automotive assembly plants throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States. Fuel tanks, brake lines, airbags, steering systems, refrigerant hoses and batteries are just a few areas that require testing.
Willi Scheer, INFICON vice president – Leak Detection, notes that the company is doubling office and manufacturing space at its headquarters in Cologne, Germany; adding sales, customer service and technical staff in North America, and introducing a variety of industry-leading new products.
INFICON’s North American customers include most of the region’s major vehicle manufacturers, including Chrysler, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. Auto suppliers and engine manufacturers on INFICON’s customer list include Autoliv, Behr America, Caterpillar, Delphi, Denso, Detroit Diesel, Eaton, Halla, Johnson Controls, MAHLE, Takata and TRW.
T-Guard, LDS3000 and Protec P3000 are among the helium and hydrogen leak-detection products offered by INFICON in the NAFTA region.
“Our product names aren’t familiar to new-car buyers, but they’re well-known to quality control managers throughout the auto industry,” says Thomas Parker, recently named automotive market sales manager for INFICON in North America. “T-Guard and other INFICON systems help assure the quality of literally millions of new cars and trucks.”
Parker explains that quality-control engineers depend on leak tests to check a variety of critical emissions, fuel, brake and other safety-related systems. Traditional water-bath or pressure-decay methods no longer are sufficient to meet stiffer quality standards, while vacuum tests often are too expensive and time-consuming.
Pressure-decay tests check for leaks by measuring changes in air pressure after air has been introduced into a test part or component. Reliability depends on a variety of factors, including variations in humidity and temperature that often occur in low-cost production facilities in areas such as the Asia Pacific region, Africa or Latin America.
He points out that INFICON has developed patented technology to help reduce assembly costs and meet auto industry efforts to improve quality. The company’s new, automated test systems use helium or hydrogen, but don’t require costly vacuum chambers.
“Our new assembly-line systems are much more accurate than pressure-decay tests and less expensive than vacuum-chamber tests,” Parker says. “INFICON’s new T-Guard system, for example, uses a unique helium-permeable membrane to measure leak rates at normal atmospheric pressures.”
“T-Guard represents an entirely new generation of leak-detection technology that helps reduce manufacturing costs and improve component quality. It bridges the gap between costly vacuum-based systems and less accurate methodologies.”
Major automotive components and systems that require leak testing include:
— Fuel Systems – Fuel tanks; filler caps and necks; fuel injectors; fuel
pumps; fuel lines, and filters
— Driveline Components – Engine oil circuits; transmissions; torque
converters; intercoolers; electric car batteries; natural gas engines,
and hydrogen and natural gas fuel tanks
— Oil and Water Systems – Plastic oil tanks; oil pans; oil coolers; oil
pumps; coolant expansion tanks; water coolers, and water pumps.
— Safety Components – Brake fluid reservoirs; power brake boosters; vacuum
brake pumps; brake hoses; seat belt pretensioners; airbag igniter caps,
and airbag generators.
— Air Conditioning Systems – AC hoses; compressors; evaporators;
condensers, and filling valves.
— Other Systems – Power steering housings; servo oil reservoirs;
windshield wiper fluid containers; wheels; shock absorbers, and starter
INFICON Inc. has research and manufacturing operations based in East Syracuse, N.Y. with sales and service centers throughout the United States, including offices in California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Based in Cologne, Germany, INFICON GmbH is one of the world’s leading developers, producers and suppliers of instruments and devices for leak detection in air-conditioning, refrigeration and automotive manufacturing. The company has manufacturing facilities in Europe, China and the United States, as well as subsidiaries throughout the world.
More information about INFICON automotive technology is available online at www.inficonautomotive.com.