DVT 2003: Vision application advice presented

Phoenix, AZ—Good lighting, application knowledge, and dedication all go into successful vision system applications, according to an end-user, system integrator, and vision-system manufacturer, who spoke on Nov. 3 at the DVT 2003 Global Business Conference and User Group Meeting.

By Control Engineering Staff November 5, 2003

Phoenix, AZ— Good lighting, application knowledge, and dedication all go into successful vision system applications, according to an end-user, a system integrator and a vision-system manufacturer. Their advice was presented on Nov. 3 at the DVT 2003 Global Business Conference and User Group Meeting.

Francis Maslar, with Ford Motor Co.’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Development group, is working on improving traceability, which are processes for identifying and locating components and their histories throughout product lifecycles. Traceability helps improve quality, quarantine suspect parts, and helps dealers and parts suppliers by more quickly identifying root causes, which increases in-station process improvement.

Results include more flexible manufacturing, cost savings, improved customer and supplier relationships, and greater understanding of process knowledge. Parts marked with 2D codes by pin stamping, inkjet and laser technologies are read by vision systems, have built in error recognition, and up to 56 characters of information in a 26 x 26 dot grid. Parts include engine blocks, crankshafts, and torque converters. Maslar offered some lessons learned and recommendations, including:

  • the need for creative camera mounting;

  • use of multiple cameras with varied lighting to reduce inspection;

  • lighting to match surface requirements (parallel to machine grooves);

  • use of an operator interface to allow operators to believe what the camera sees; and

  • the need for cleaner parts to improve visual read ability.

“Codes stick out like neon sign if light is parallel to grooves,” Maslar points out. Inspection of parts from suppliers ensures marks are “C” quality or higher according to applicable industry guidelines. Human-visible numbers allow operator manual entry of a part that fails automated inspection. Masler says Six Sigma aims for 99.9997% defect-free processes. This demands just three “no reads” in a million, and only 10 minutes of downtime per month.

Matt Quinn, with system integrator Epic Vision Solutions (St. Louis, MO), looked at how vision systems can help apply Six Sigma methods, “which have become a way of life for some companies,” including manufacturing and service organizations. Leaders include Motorola and Allied Signal, Quinn says. A Six Sigma black belt can do four to six projects a year, averaging $230,000 savings on each, he explains. GE cites nearly $10 billion in savings for the first five years of its Six Sigma practice.

“Is 99.9% quality good enough?” Quinn asks. In the U.S., that would equate into 200,000 wrong prescriptions; unsafe drinking water for an hour a month; no TV for 10 minutes a week; and 96 airplane crashes per 100,000 flights (just three days of U.S. flights).

Quinn gave examples to show that DVT could perform well in high-end applications, as well. He says DVT participated in a project that had stalled after $250 million had been invested in nine months, and simplified the design from four cameras to three and two processors to one. In process inspection of GE’s high- and low-beam coils for automotive light bulbs, Epic’s solutions validated 20,000 tests for the application. This process includes 46 inspections per minute, with

Epic worked with DVT to make a firmware change, allowing first-in-first-out processing. A second GE project required 41,472 tests to validate over about a month, using three cameras to do 16 inspections. “Sometime you can’t just put the camera on a machine and make it do vision. Sometimes you have to change material handling to make it work,” Quinn noted. For this application, the bulb had to be rotated to find the best inspection position.

A major differentiator for DVT is free classroom, online and/or CD-based trainings; free online diagnostics; global assistance from 20 offices, 130 technical support centers and 600 certified system integrators; and global, native language support, according to Bob Steinke, DVT’s chairman and CEO.

Steinke also challenges employees, distributors and customers to embrace faith-based servant leadership, in which DVT and its partners put others’ needs before their own. “It’s not about feelings,” Steinke maintains. “We do it because it’s the right thing to do.” This model seems to be working. Steinke says DVT has seen compound annual growth rate of 43% per year for 10 years running, and October 2003 was its the biggest booking month ever.

“Why should we be satisfied with double-digit growth?” he challenged the conference and user group’s audience of 500 of distributors, system integrators, major end-users and media, which was nearly double last year’s attendance.

Steinke concluded that one way to continue growth is to identify three major weaknesses from 2003, and strive to not take them into 2004.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief