VW Using Terahertz Tech to Measure Thickness


German automaker The Volkswagen Group has reportedly employed a novel terahertz wave-based technology to measure the film thickness of its car body coatings.

According to a recent report from Metrology News, Volkswagen has been using Irys system, a patented non-contact, non-destructive thickness measurement system that uses using terahertz waves and proprietary algorithms developed by Spanish manufacturer das-Nano.

“Terahertz technology brings a new light for the industry, and in the automotive sector, in particular, is setting the global standard on quality control for body coatings,” said Eduardo Azanza, co-founder and CEO of das-Nano.

About the Irys System

Reportedly, the distinctive feature of terahertz technology is its ability to penetrate through most dielectric materials such as plastics, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, insulation, textiles or wood. Terahertz radiation reportedly consists of electromagnetic waves with a range that falls between microwaves and infrared light waves.

According to das-Nano, the Irys system allows fast, non-contact inspection of materials, offering real-time thickness measurements of each applied coating layer (wet, dry and cured). The system is reportedly fully automated and features a self-calibration system that requires no calibration stops. It can reportedly measure thickness on any type of substrate, on flat or curved surfaces, and can report results with an accuracy within 1 micron.

“It offers high spatial resolution below the millimeter, down to the micron unit, can pass through most materials that have low electrical conductivity, and are low-energy waves, harmless to humans,” said Israel Arnedo, Terahertz Business Unit Director at das-Nano.

The company also says the system can provide the vehicle manufacturer with previously inaccessible information on its painting processes, as well as create cost savings and reduced environmental impact due to the reduction of materials, energy and defective pieces.

Volkswagen reportedly chose to use das-Nano’s THz technology after an international tender process. The equipment was reportedly installed at Volkswagen facilities in Navarra, Spain, in July 2020 and has been in constant operation since.

According to das-Nano, the automotive industry will continue to rely on these new inspection technologies for the painting processes to reduce power output and CO2 emissions in auto plants.

Other Terahertz Technology

In 2014, manufacturer Advanced Photonix Inc., of Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced that it would develop Phase II Terahertz Imaging for Detection of Corrosion and Defects Under Hull Coatings.

The announcement reportedly came as part of a Small Business Innovation Research contract with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Center Enterprise, which engineers, builds and supports the country's fleet of ships and combat systems.

The non-contact, time-domain terahertz imaging system was reportedly being designed for in-situ defect detection of commonly used ship hull coatings and rapid, non-destructive detection of:

  • Corrosion,
  • Hull coating delamination, and
  • Hull surface gouges recessed into the hull metal through still-attached hull coatings.

Phase I (the proof-of-concept phase) was reportedly successful, leading to the award for the second phase to develop a prototype suitable for evaluation. The prototype would be tested on submarine hulls or "representative structures." Advanced Photonix said it also expected to oversee Phase III of the program, which entailed a development plan to transition the technology into a system that could be deployed by the Navy.

"This is another example of our long and continuing partnership with the Department of Defense," said Richard Kurtz, President and CEO of Advanced Photonix, at the time.


Tagged categories: Applied film thickness; Asia Pacific; Automotive coatings; Coating Application; Coating inspection; Coating Materials; Coating/Film Thickness; Dry Film Thickness (DFT); EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Controls; Latin America; North America; PaintSquare; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Technology; Tools & Equipment; Wet film thickness; Z-Continents

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