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After two years of operationalizing business practices to offer manufacturing assembly equipment, Walt designed the first PLC-based function tester for JCI’s Mexican Confortseat plant. The legacy started, and soon, they were in the good books of countless satisfied customers, marking the foundation of Walt’s new endeavor, LM3 Technologies in 2009.
Today, LM3 manufactures various turnkey test systems to serve the automotive industry for end-of-line quality control testing. The company prides itself as being one of the few testing companies capable of providing complete solutions that include engineering, test hardware platforms, test connectors, and calibration services. “The strength that we showcase has been developed and hardened over the years through our involvement with hundreds of product launches in the automotive industry,” says Walt, the founder and president of LM3. “Our secret sauce is that we blend years of experience and expertise with a very dynamic and youthful staff, and focus on completing projects by leveraging an engineering method, which ensures projects are managed for maximum efficiency and a minimum time to launch readiness.”
Evolving with the Market
With the blurring lines between digital and physical technologies, Industry 4.0 is rapidly making the concept of a smart factory into a reality by enhancing the operational excellence of manufacturing companies in ways never imagined before. That said, data-driven insights ripple through production and planning processes, transforming the conventional structure, strategy, and execution in the industry. This technologically advanced and intelligent Industry 4.0-enabled systems are all set to bring about the next big change in automotive, software technology networking, and mechatronics. With over 20 years of experience in the automotive industry, LM3 is at the vanguard, extending the frontiers of knowledge and expertise.
Governed by a primary objective to manufacture better assembly equipment in the automotive market, LM3 has eventually made its mark in the automotive landscape with its unparalleled National Instruments (NI) solutions.
Our secret sauce is that we blend years of experience and expertise with a very dynamic and youthful staff
Standardized and Modularized Hardware Platforms
LM3 Technologies’ solution uses AI based on TensorFlow API’s NI Machine Vision as well as data mining and analysis that can be used by manufacturers to verify their processes by scanning different tools used during the production cycle. “In the automotive industry, change is frequent. Customers ask for solutions that assist in achieving Industry 4.0 objectives along with NI’s products, and our equipment needs to be flexible enough to change with the industry. It is all about reliability and round-the-clock customer support, and that’s what we deliver,” adds Walt.
The delivery process of LM3’s solution starts with charting customer specifications based on their templates and determining the project requirements. The prototyping allows customers to get a preview of the UI and suggest modifications for optimal user experience. Next, the company comes up with a custom solution that involves tracking the data needed to report those performance measures through weekly meetings with the customers. They also work with the customers to define the UI and dashboard, and the data that gets stored for future modifications and calculations.
For rapid prototyping, LM3 uses LabVIEW and its toolkits with NI’s Vision Builder for Automated Inspection (VBAI), which shortens lead times, reduces overall costs, and guarantees customer satisfaction. Customers are involved in the development of the system throughout the project lifecycle to avoid miscommunication in certain aspects of their requirements leading to a need to redesign.
According to Walt, if a company is designing software solutions based on a specific development system, they are doing it wrong. “Each application requires planning on what type of development will lead to the best solution. For instance, LabVIEW is best for rapid prototyping,” he adds. LM3 Technologies is also a true believer in open-source projects and uses Open Data Kit® for its mobile data collection solutions for cost-effectiveness.
Designing and Developing a Complete System
What really differentiates LM3 is their relentless focus on rapid prototyping. This keeps costs down and gets a functional product in front of the customer before they make a large investment in the final package. Additionally, LM3 designs and develops a complete system from the backend to the middleware, including data acquisition, data servers, and the UI. We have rich expertise in robotics, data acquisition hardware, industrial buses such as Profibus, Profinet, Ethernet/IP, CAN, DeviceNet, LIN, and Modbus. We have no limitations when it comes to manufacturing controls and complex solutions involving different types of hardware and communications protocols.
"Each application requires planning on what type of development will lead to the best solution. For instance, LabVIEW is best for rapid prototyping"
By using LabVIEW, LM3 Technologies has developed sequencing software to allow customers to sequence their inspection steps in any order, which ultimately minimizes cycle time and repetitive operator actions. The company has also built a low-cost vision system using LabVIEW and VBAI, to compete with the two big vision companies: Keyence and Cognex. “Those systems can be cost prohibitive in large-scale manufacturing environments and therefore inhibit standardization across the entire manufacturing environment,” states Walt.
Improving Solutions Continually
With its commitment toward meeting customer requirements and enhancing customer satisfaction, LM3 Technologies stays on top to keep improving its products, services, and quality management system. The company strives further by adding the latest standards to their arsenal; the latest being when LM3 became an ISO: 9001 accredited quality assurance company. This has helped the company standardize its quality verifications through strong internal management and also to heighten the standard of its products. The company is currently in its beginning stages of planning for an ISO: 17025 accreditation, which will enable them to perform third-party calibrations for all testing applications.
Going ahead, LM3 also aims to emphasize on machine vision inspection including machine and deep learning as well as mobile device data collection and verification in traditional manufacturing environments. This will encompass hardware control, data collection, and data mining for use in process improvement with the ultimate goal of improving efficiency and increasing customer profits.