There is a myriad of inspection products on the market today all competing for the attention of both the consumer and the commercial user, all looking for the best solution for their budget.
Inspection can be broken down into many subcategories, both from an application perspective i.e. non-destructive testing and inspection or surface inspection, and a solutions perspective i.e. digital inspection and automated optical inspection (AOI). For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the solutions side. Either way, it is clear that inspection is utilised as a solution in many manufacturing facilities and is a critical part of the process across departments from goods-in, to research and development (R&D), to final inspection and Quality Control (QC).
Whether engineers are looking for automated functionality to maximise production efficiency, or a manual inspection solution for critical assemblies requiring bespoke and human interaction, there is an inspection solution for everything. However, there are some features and functionality that may surprise you, and you may not have realised they even exist – including true 3D inspection.
Pushing your thoughts of ‘Matrix-esque’ to the side, this 3D solution from Vision Engineering delivers a true digital 3D image to engineers wishing to manually inspect their components or assemblies.
Using patented technology, the DRV-Z1 Digital 3D Imaging System delivers brilliant depth perception with up to 186x magnification and a 10:1 zoom ratio.
If the DRV-Z1 was connected to an external mono monitor, it would deliver an HD image of 1920 x 1080, but the organic view through the system is double that resolution. This is because the image of DRV is made up of two full HD channels optically combined on the mirror, thus doubling the line resolution viewed by the user, referred to as “full stereo HD” resolution.
Impressively, the system can be paired so colleagues in other departments can share the 3D view for training or reporting. Suppliers and customers from anywhere around the world have ability to share 3D views ensuring quality and consistency across your business and through the supply chain.
Automatic or automated optical inspection systems usually benefit from a whole host of features to inspect the part, ensuring quality and consistency throughout the entire production process.
Technology is improving all the time but one of the features which is configured as part of some systems is the ability to allow engineers to inspect the board from an oblique view, without handling it. You’d think that utilising an AOI in your production would negate the need to handle the board. However, although this is the case in most scenarios, some boards often need that extra attention i.e. especially if the BGAs are strategically placed between taller components.
Accounting for this requirement, the Yamaha Ysi-V Optical Inspection Machine (AOI) allows engineers to inspect the board at an oblique view for additional inspection. Equipped with its range of high-resolution cameras, this Yamaha system surpasses the 3D inspection of other comparable systems, with its 4D / four directional camera angle feature.
The angle is created as an option by the utilisation of four 12-megapixel cameras, simultaneously capturing the PCB from all four angles. According to Yamaha, it helps to prevent human error by negating the requirement for handling the PCB manually and reducing the number of operations on the line.
AOI systems have PCBs covered and with all the advanced technology they’re designed with, you need to ask if there is still a requirement for manual inspection at all. There will always be a requirement for manual inspection whether you’re manufacturing PCBs, machining or casting components. Vision Engineering has cornered the market for manual inspection and having supported a range of industries for more than 60 years, they have a good handle on the needs and wants of the manufacturer. This is reflected in the range of components available for their systems including the oblique and direct viewer for the Lynx stereo zoom microscope and the Episcopic Illuminator for the award winning Mantis stereo microscope. The Episcopic Illuminator has been designed to be configured with the Mantis to enable engineers to inspect down narrow passages, such as veins or through holes and blind holes. The iris control can be adjusted so the episcopic light column can fit a range of hole diameters with the concentration of light through-the-lens (TTL) to illuminate the bottom and sides of component features.
It is ideal if you are manufacturing feature rich components or components such as turbine blades, that need coating and manual inspection to ensure accuracy and quality.
Accuracy and quality is imperative for critical components, especially ones utilised in medical devices or aerospace. Another accessory available for the Mantis is the ultraviolet (UV) interchangeable turret, enabling critical components such as castings for aerospace to be inspected with white light and then switched to UV, for cracks or other microscopic imperfections.
Most people working in a manufacturing environment will know it’s commonplace to see X-Ray systems on the production floor, usually within a quality control area. For example, some X-Ray systems (operating at around 90-120 kV) like the Unicomp AX-8200N might be utilised for the inspection of BGAs on PCBs because it is virtually impossible to inspect the contact of the BGAs without seeing the contrast and definition of the solder through the plastic. Similarly, X-Ray systems are utilised in defence and aerospace to inspect and measure for imperfections such as cracks on castings, which can be hard for the human eye to see. The cracks can be microns, yet any imperfection needs to be observed because it can show weakness in the component and its function could be critical.
X-Ray systems play an important part in some manufacturing processes, but did you know this also extends to food manufacturing? X-Ray systems vary in strength and some systems are powerful enough to inspect plant root structures with a 250kV plus – like the GE Phoenix Nanome|X. With the changing planet, plant morphology, or phytomorphology, has become increasingly important, helping to maximise yield in different and often challenging environments. This is achieved by utilising the strength of the system to inspect, measure and monitor root traits in plant foods such as Winter Beets.
Artificial Intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks which normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages (Artificial Intelligence | Meaning of Artificial Intelligence by Lexico, 2020).
Manufacturers have started to see the benefits of utilising AI in their manufacturing processes, especially with the visual perception aspect of AI, defined by Lexico above. AI is becoming increasingly popular because of the efficiency, waste reduction and the consistent high quality it can deliver. It is also designed into a range of systems to meet the requirements of manufacturing i.e. robots in assembly and AOI systems in Quality Control.
How does inspection integrate with AI in manufacturing?
Inspection systems can be utilised to recognise imperfections on the production line, which in turn can have significant savings from repairs and recalls. In conjunction with a fully integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, the network of preprogrammed actions based on data and algorithms can check stock levels of parts that are flagged with imperfections, and order supplies automatically when stock is low.
For example, inspection can be programmed to ascertain if something is a pass or fail by visual perception. The perception is based upon what is and what is not acceptable based on a golden board, matching information based on templates, patterns, and or statistical patterns.
Another example, is the use of Solder Paste Inspection Systems like the Saki 3D SPI that utilises advanced technology for machine to machine (M2M) communication. The SPI system inspects / analyses the printed board and feeds back to screen printer on issues such as misalignment. It then feeds forward information to the pick-and-place, informing the system of any change in printing position so placement positioning can be optimised.
Improvements in technology are not just fads, but about providing solutions to real pain points, whether it’s in research and development, production or quality control. What is less surprising is the importance of inspecting goods throughout the process. This always has and will continue to make inspection a crucial part of operations, and any technology that makes this easier or brings increased accuracy or efficiency is welcome.
Keeping up with technology is important, but investing in the latest trend for the sake of it, without truly understanding what value it can bring to your business, or how it integrates with other systems or processes can mean the system is just left to grow dust within its first year. At Hawker Richardson, our ethos is to ensure we understand your business and your long term goals, so we can advise you on what options will bring true value to your business, not just fulfilling your immediate requirements, but working with you to ensure you succeed year after year.
Impressively, the system can be paired so colleagues in other departments can share the 3D view for training or reporting. Suppliers and customers from anywhere around the world, have ability to share 3D views ensuring quality and consistency across your business and through the supply chain.