In this digital age, wouldn't you imagine that cars float through virtual assembly lines? Avatars ensuring that assembly workers will have room to maneuver their wrenches? Ensuring robotic arms having no collisions with fenders, rendering an otherwise gleaming auto undeliverable for an unsightly dent?
But car models get bigger every year with just about every automaker. Volvo was not alone in seeing the chance of collisions down the line getting increasingly common.
CAD model of car in point cloud representation of factory at Volvo
Volvo had been pushing a cardboard mockup of the latest model down the line. This seemingly low tech approach was at least better than having to stop the line -- something no factory will want to do. But the cardboard models would not survive the acid bath, a pit into which the real car would receive its rust proofing. And that pit was getting smaller every year, it seemed.
Volvo has not found a single digital solution to simulate the car going down the line and so have to use a hybrid model. A point cloud from a 3D scan simulates the assembly line. As is becoming increasingly common, a laser scanner is situated in a spot on the factory floor and generates a million 3D points. This is repeated in multiple locations in the same factory. the more the better. One vantage point will "see" things another scan does not. Do this often enough and Volvo got a usable model of the existing factory assembly line. So much easier than having to model the factory!
The car, however, existed as a solid model. Volvo now brings the CAD model into through the point cloud and is able to solve problems before they become an issue on the real factory floor.
Source: "Living in the Point Cloud" Magnus Rönnäng, Volvo, keynote presentation at SPR Int'l 2014, April 15, 2014