When one of the world’s leading manufacturers of technology metals and advanced ceramics needed an automated inspection system to detect surface defects such as cracks and scratches on molybdenum slabs, they asked Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) to develop a solution that would both improve the inspection process and improve their quality control processes. Since each molybdenum slab costs tens of thousands of dollars, it is extremely expensive to ship defective product.
AS&E designed a machine vision solution to incorporate state-of-the-art equipment with customized inspection algorithms. Our ability to provide concise, immediate feedback would result in maximizing production uptime, efficiency and profitability.
State-of-the art high resolution line scan cameras were utilized with specialized light lines. Getting the proper amount and angle of light is critical to be able to detect all defects. Customized mechanical structures, necessary to mount the cameras and lights, were manufactured to create the inspection environment as required by the vision system.
When a defect is detected, a digital output signal is sent to the base station computer and identified on the GUI for the operator to take appropriate action.
Utilizing line-scan cameras with appropriate operational characteristics allowed AS&E to continually acquire pictures and “stitch” them together so that the entire web could be visually depicted and stored.
An alarm is triggered when a bad area is found. A map depicting “problems vs. position” is created and stored to enable rapid access and comparisons to later product positional results. The images of every part are transferred and stored on the manufacturer’s server for historical purposes.
The system was designed to enable multiple, variable sized slabs and sticks to be simultaneously analyzed and to inspect both the top and bottom sides of every slab.
The machine vision system was designed to accommodate the following production line/washing station characteristics:
- The station runs different size parts and up to 4 parts simultaneously
- The station is 84 in. wide with a maximum FOV being approximately 55 in.
- Defects as small as 0.1mm are identified
The AS&E system design is focused not only on performing consistently accurate inspections but also on the ease of use for customer personnel. It is extremely easy for customer personnel to retrieve information from a customized user interface and to input data either manually or on an automated basis.
AS&E historically develops extremely detailed, very informative reporting features for our customers. These items allow integral members of the production and management teams to review the efficiency of the operation on a near real-time basis.
Production statistics are captured and are available for analysis to provide continuous process improvements. For example, if the statistical average of “good” parts shifts from the “normal / desired results” or approaches the edge of the tolerance limits, a warning can be displayed on the User Interface indicating a potential pending error condition.
If deemed beneficial, an email or text message can be sent to an appropriate list of recipients if the “normal” production performance shifts by a predefined limit.
AS&E has developed similar customized web inspection systems utilizing line scan cameras for the solar energy, steel, food processing and industrial coatings industries.