As automotive manufacturers face increasing pressure from consumers, the competitive industry landscape, and a growing body of regulation, it’s essential that they prioritize product quality. A key component of that process is machine vision-based quality assurance (QA), which increases productivity and yield. It can prevent classification errors to avoid a poor-quality product being sent to the next tier in the supply chain and prevent damage to the customer relationship and the company’s reputation.
“Previously, automotive manufacturers have been held back from reaping the huge potential benefits of machine vision, due to the limitations of the technologies underlying traditional solutions,” explains Harel Boren, founder and CEO of Inspekto, maker of autonomous machine vision systems. “An external vision systems integrator is handed the reins of the project and automotive manufacturers lose control of QA. During the long wait time, the automotive manufacturer must either turn to inaccurate human inspection, perform random checks, or halt production altogether.”
To improve productivity, manufacturers must first identify where losses and scrap are made and then take action to increase output. Applying QA early increases yield and decreases losses. Visual QA is becoming increasingly popular to provide consistent and accurate inspection of products for flaws. The affordability and immediacy of autonomous machine vision systems allow manufacturers to release manpower from manual visual inspection, identify faulty components early, and directly reduce scrap.
Optimization with automation
QA is necessary, but it doesn’t add value, making it a poor field for expensive employee experts. Automating the task allows manufacturing to re-task people to value-adding activities. With a European producer, a $10,800 Inspekto S70 automated vision system generated nearly $1.6 million in labor cost savings throughout its expected depreciation period.
“The Inspekto S70 can also be used as part of a fully automated process to ensure that the product is clean and free from any machining or other debris from a previous process,” Boren says. “This is extremely valuable during assembly as the part may soon become embedded into a product, so clearing it as non-defective before this occurs will drastically reduce scrap.”
The system combines artificial intelligence and deep-learning engines to allow the system to be self-setting, self-learning, and self-adjusting.
To teach the system the properties of a non-defective product, the operator requires about 20 to 30 good samples, depending on the product’s complexity. The operator doesn’t have to present any defective samples because the system will learn everything it needs about a gold-standard product from the examples. Once this step is complete, the Inspekto S70 will run autonomously, interacting directly with a manual operator or connecting out-of-the-box to the plant’s programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
The system’s Plug & Inspect technology makes it suitable for various handling methods and product ranges, and manufacturers can configure the system quickly to inspect multiple products on the same line.
Plug & Inspect technology allows systems to be stored until needed and then rapidly set up on the line.
Autonomous machine vision systems can be installed and set up in 30 to 60 minutes, without a vision systems integrator. Manufacturers can install an autonomous machine vision system at every required point on the production line, enabling a concept known as Total QA. Archived data also allows manufacturers to trace the point on the manufacturing line where a defect was introduced, down to which machine malfunctioned, how and when, to the exact second.
“By operating Total QA, the manufacturer is safeguarded,” Boren says. “If any question of product quality is raised, the manufacturer has access to a full archive of production data and can be completely sure whether a product was defective or not – and they can prove it.”
Maxon expands to service US customers
Maxon precision motors has opened a two-story 59,000ft² manufacturing facility in Taunton, Massachusetts, to provide design engineering and production operations, significantly advancing maxon’s presence and capabilities in North America. U.S. customers will be able to collaborate more closely, providing value added opportunities with faster turnaround. A localized supply chain with domestic vendors will also build stronger customer relationships while reducing lead times.
“Our vision is to be an integral part of maxon’s global growth strategy,” says Chris Blake, head of the U.S. management team. “With expanded engineering services in place, our customers will enjoy a closer collaboration on design and manufacturing and have a more direct line to our team during concept development, which will include rapid prototyping to better execute customer-specific products.”
The Taunton facility includes offices and conference areas, warehousing, and manufacturing space. It replaces a sales/distribution and assembly operation in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Permanent magnet AC motor
VFsync, a next-generation permanent magnet AC motor, is designed for demanding machine drive applications. The synchronous motors run at high efficiency with advanced variable frequency drives (VFDs). The IP66/IP54 platform of three-phase motors range from 0.25hp to 1.50hp and are supplied with swivel connectors and shielded cables for easy installation. Frame sizes include IEC B14, sizes 71, 80, and 90 along with NEMA 56C mounting. The product line includes the new motors, quick connect cables, and a programmable and networked VFDs available in an IP20 panel style or enclosed IP66 models.
The motors are optimized with finite element analysis (FEA) software and tooled with internal permanent magnet style rotors. VFsync’s footprint is 56% smaller and 63% lighter than common three-phase induction motors.
Each frame size is available in 230V or 460V construction and TENV, TENV w/encoder, or TEFC styles.
Miniature linear translation stages
The L-505 linear translation stage family is available with integrated linear encoders providing 0.050µm and 0.005µm resolution, respectively.
Many motor and drive variations are available, from fast DC-servo motors with linear encoders and low-friction ballscrews to simple open-loop stepper motors.
Two basic layouts are offered: a shorter, lower profile version with a folded drive train (motor side-by-side with the platform) and a longer, narrow in-line version. Both come in 0.5" (13mm) and 1" (26mm) travel ranges. X-Y and X-Y-Z combinations are also available.