Vision Systems Help Auto Supplier Achieve Major Quality Gains and Labor Savings
A transmission control module (TCM) produced by an automotive supplier is critical to vehicle performance so 100% inspection is required to verify the mechanical integrity of each unit that comes off the assembly line. The supplier was not satisfied with manual inspection because it is never completely accurate. The supplier’s philosophy is to eliminate even a single bad part. The supplier also wanted to be able to provide documentary proof that individual parts had passed inspection in case questions arose in the future.
The automotive supplier worked with Universal Instruments to develop an automated solution that provides 100% quality at an economical cost. The customer had already decided to use a laser marking system to provide traceability at the individual component level. Universal’s challenge in this application was to read a 1D barcode on the pallet, a 2D Data Matrix code and text on the product, and inspect the power and signal ports on the product for mechanical integrity. These operations all had to be carried out in a very short period of time and within in a limited amount of space.
“This application involves an extremely wide range of challenging vision tasks,” said Francois Caudrillier, Director of Product Management and Solution Integration for Universal Instruments. “It would not be that difficult to find three different vision systems that could meet these three very difficult challenges. But using three different systems would dramatically increase the complexity and cost of the solution. It would also likely be impossible to physically fit three conventional vision systems in the cramped confines of a single cell. The Cognex In-Sight® 5100C (The photo shows an earlier but similar inspection station that uses an older model Cognex vision system) provided the answer to these challenges. It reads 2D Data Matrix codes and performs optical character recognition as well as dimensional inspection. The ability to use a single vision system to meet all of the requirements of the application saved time and money because we were able to work in a single programming environment and with a single interface throughout the project.”
”Cognex provided excellent support in this application,” Caudrillier said. “We sent them samples of the product and they helped to define the lensing and lighting solution for the application. This assistance freed up our engineers to work on other aspects of the project.” The solution developed by Universal Instruments utilizes a 1500 mm wide Polaris Junior assembly cell. The Polaris Junior cell features a 3-axis gantry driven by lead screws and controlled by a Galil motion card with repeatability of 0.0004 inch. An Omron programmable logic controller (PLC) defines the location and sequence of the inspection operations.
The new inspection system provides a substantial improvement in accuracy relative to manual inspection. Every automotive supplier knows the danger of shipping even one bad part to a customer and also knows that manual inspection runs the continual risk of errors. This automotive supplier has taken action to ensure 100% automated inspection of every component, virtually eliminating the possibility of errors. In addition, machine vision provides a substantial cost savings by eliminating the need for manual inspection. The supplier plans to expand its use of machine vision in the future to ensure that it continues to exceed its customers’ expectations.