Automation best pick

Packaging small parts at DePuy Spine is a good example of low-volume/high-mix processing.

03/27/2008


Packaging small parts at DePuy Spine (a Johnson and Johnson company based in Switzerland) is a good example of low-volume/high-mix processing, which typically involves high costs. The company produces small implants, such as screws for spinal surgery. Previously the packing operation had been done manually, but with regulations growing ever stricter, the company began seeking an alternative to provide higher speed, lower cost, and better accuracy. The system they chose involved flexible part automation using a desktop robot and a vision system.
Value-added reseller Compar , which is a Cognex partner integrator, developed the flexible and scalable vision solution based on Cognex PC vision. Each implant is placed in the cell of a blister pack. Each batch is identifiable by a code and certain nests may be empty. The products are inspected in individual nests by being passed through a desktop vision system.
The autonomous inspection system (AIS) consists of a 2-axis desktop robot and a PC-based vision system using the Cognex Vision Library as a software platform. The camera is mounted on the desktop robot’s y-axis, while blister packs move under the camera in the x-direction. Several inspections can be conducted for each nest. The system has a barcode scanner to simplify data entry for each batch.
The inspected data are compared against the set values and permissible tolerances. If a faulty product is detected, an alarm is triggered and quality assurance personnel remove the product for manual inspection. An added advantage of the system is that it ensures full 21 CFR Part 11 compliance by tracking the results for each batch for future reference. With automation of the inspection process using vision, DePuy can be sure that the results stored for each batch are reliable.
System advantages include: Integration of vision in a mechanical environment; allowing inspection of the whole batch as it moves through the process; Complete inspection of all parts; 100% inspection and quality control of medical implants before they are shipped; Full traceability ensuring compliance; More efficient processing; and Inspections that are robust against mispositioning of camera and parts under inspection.
Future plans to expand the application may include surface inspection, print layout inspection, soldering point inspection, and code reading. The solution is easily adaptable for many other inspection types, and identification applications.
Johann Faneca, production manager at DePuy Spine estimates time savings with a value of CHF 100,000 (Swiss francs), or $101,905, for the first year.
Also read from Control Engineering : On Track with Machine Vision .
— Edited by C.G. Masi , senior editor
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