FEATURE Machine Vision

In-line CT scanning solution

ensures production quality Peter Davis, CT Automation Manager, and Jake Rickter, Automation Specialist, both at Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions, explain how inspection and evaluation of individual parts can be performed wihin seconds


rend analysis shows the movement to automate many industries is accelerating: a report from the McKinsey Global Institute predicts that some 39 to 73 million jobs in the US alone may either be eliminated or changed as a result, with early adopters pulling ahead of their slower competitors in the race to produce goods quickly. Automation, however, can also bring challenges to quality. Legacy visual, manual/physical or periodic/batch sampling methodologies are of limited use with today’s high-speed production lines and can result in a signifi cant proportion of discarded parts. The issue is not the low cost of an individual part, but the potential coupling of a defective part with another one, or late detection of a problem that results in the manufacture of hundreds or thousands of bad ones – or worse: a jammed, high-speed machine and complete line shutdown.

The solution lies in in-line inspection of every single part with a high-speed computed tomography (CT) system, coupled with powerful scan-data analysis software. A signifi cant driver for the adoption of in-line scanning has been the leap in data- processing speeds. Set up on the factory fl oor at the point where just manufactured parts emerge, such a system can scan, analyse and accept or reject a part in as short a time as fi ve seconds.

Implementation example An electronics-connector manufacturer was looking for an automated solution to eff ectively carry out inspection on 100% of its products directly on the production line. The part in question consisted of a small base plate on which a large number of metal pins were mounted and then over-molded with plastic. If the metal pins were in any way deformed or moved out of position during manufacturing or the subsequent molding process, the company’s current production setup could not detect this before the part went into an automatic insertion machine. A single pin out of alignment could cause a line shutdown.

The solution was an inline CT system, 36 June 2021 | Automation

Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions CT system and (right) analysis software setup

coupled with scan-data analysis software and tailored to the exact speed and effi ciency metrics of the connector manufacturer’s automated production process. Located where the fi nished parts emerge on a conveyor belt, the system, from Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions, rapidly CT scans each part to provide both surface and internal X-ray views of the complete part volume. This data is then transferred (as an STL fi le) to a nearby computer loaded with Volume Graphics VGInline analysis software. The software (pre-confi gured with the manufacturer’s macros and parameters) compares the geometry of each connector against a “golden mesh” – an adaptation from the original CAD design of the part that takes into account the realities of the pin-manufacturing process – and identifi es any variances in connector-pin structure or alignment. If a single pin is found to be outside the pre-determined tolerance limits, the entire connector is rejected by the software and automatically gated off the assembly line.

Customising the CT scanning process for an individual production line in this way requires answers to questions such as: how quickly is the line moving and how fast does the scan need to be? What information must be taken from the scan and what to do with it? What are the tolerances within the parts being produced and how much variance is allowable? Tailoring the system to the connector manufacturer’s answers produced

an optimised solution that confi gured the setup precisely.

Deep vision

The ability of CT scanning to non- destructively see deep inside objects allows this kind of system to be used for quality control on manufacturing lines across many industries. The setup can evaluate parts made from almost any material, no matter how complex in shape. Detecting porosity, delamination and a wide variety of types of defects anywhere within the part, the software can also apply fi nite element analysis (FEA) to evaluate to what extent any variations in part geometry will aff ect performance.

As the automation of factories continues to expand, the economics of implementing reliable, repeatable quality control directly on the manufacturing line in this way is increasingly making sense to high-volume part-production companies. Industrial CT and software systems are being installed all over the world at increasing rates as more manufacturers realise that making the technical investment to integrate this technology with their existing production lines provides signifi cant benefi ts to both themselves and their customers.


Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions

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