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Vision Systems Simplify, Amplify, Automotive Part Inspection and Assembly

A side view of SDC’s indexing dial on the assembly machine and some of its parts

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Automotive manufacturing is a wholly globalized industry. Companies of every size and niche are competing with one another on a massive scale. Successful manufacturers must find new, innovative ways to reduce costs and lead times without forfeiting quality or throughput.

Finding ways to reduce production time and cost comes naturally to Steven Douglas Corp. (SDC), an Ohio-based company that engineers, designs, and builds custom factory automation systems. When an automotive component manufacturer approached SDC to design an automated system for assembling ignition coils, SDC knew the vision system would be the solution's foundation.

Manufacturing ignition coils is a delicate, exact process. One of the first steps is guiding the copper wire into a cylindrical core. SDC needed a vision system to identify the location of the lead wire, another one to measure critical dimensions of the ignition coil during assembly, and finally a system to ensure the completed part met the required specifications.

The number of vision systems required for the project – and their different functions – pointed SDC in one direction: Cognex.

“I prefer Cognex because [their products] integrate seamlessly into the Rockwell PLC control system that we use on almost all our machines – more seamlessly than most other manufacturers,” said Neil Davis, an electrical engineer at SDC.

SDC implemented Cognex’s In-Sight vision systems to measure critical dimensions on the part and the ignition coil as it was being assembled, ensuring the ignition coils met rigid tolerance requirements.

The In-Sight systems automated an otherwise time-consuming part of the inspection. If the part met the required specifications, it passed onto the next phase of the production process; otherwise, the machine would reject the part at a later station. Coupled with a touchscreen display connected to the vision systems, SDC's customer could see what types of failures, if any, were occurring – all in real-time.

Since the vision systems are standalone cameras, they occupied less space inside SDC’s electrical enclosures and required fewer cables than other potential solutions. The system’s ergonomic, compact design allowed the customer to preserve even more space, a valuable commodity in any manufacturing facility.

The customer immediately realized greater throughput and thorough understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, thanks to the In-Sight vision systems. Moreover, Cognex’s advanced, yet easy-to-train, vision tools enabled engineers to deploy software-based solutions on the fly as well as identify and correct inspection-related issues.

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