GM’s RFID Engine Bolts Prevent Assembly Line Screw-Ups #Manufacturing Monday
Gizmodo has an interesting tale out of the GM factory: they are now putting RFID tags in the bolts on assembly lines to make sure everything is fit together correctly.
Inside the head of GM’s “data bolt” is an RFID memory tag and a coiled antenna. The brainy bolts are installed on each engine block and cylinder head at the beginning of the machining process. Scanners check the bolts during nearly 50 separate machining processes, ensuring that previous steps were completed successfully and marking the current step as completed. If an RFID scanner detects a part that was improperly machined, it’s kicked off the assembly line for inspection.
Unfortunately, you won’t find these data bolts under the hood of your car — they’re removed once engine assembly is completed and re-used. Still, one can’t help but wonder if RFID-tagged fasteners will start appearing in hardware stores. Maybe someday, we’ll say “so-and-so is smart as a doornail.”
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Many years ago (too many…) I worked at Mostek, the ancient memory chip foundry.
We were building a system of ‘cassettes’ which would contain the ICs at each testing phase. The testing machines would read the cassette (which had a small processor and memory) to keep track of the lot, MIL or Commercial, what tests the ICs within the cassette had passed, etc. Very similar to the ‘RFID data-bolt’. A cassette of ICs couldn’t be mounted on the next machine if it hadn’t passed the previous set of tests.
Unfortunately we were laid off and the company sold. This was (straining memory…) 1985 I think.