With the increasing demands of consumers, from a quality and quantity perspective, the use of automated inspection, also known as machine vision, is now one of the key technology areas in the manufacturing industry.
Traditionally a manufacturing process has a human element at the inspection stage where products are being visually inspected. This often involves handling the product and so due to manufacturing speeds can mean that the inspection is on a sub-set of the entire production run. However, today's markets demand higher production throughput with guaranteed quality and so this is where the importance of automated inspection is realised.
With the use of industrial cameras, illumination and optics a high quality image of the product can be captured. This can be from a few images a second to hundred's of images per second depending on the demands of the manufacturing process. Once the image has been captured it is processed to include tasks such as; product identification, surface/finish inspection, measurement/dimension inspection, presence/absence checks, barcode reading , character recognition and so on. There is also an emerging area of vision that deals with 3D data analysis which is critical for processes that require robotic control such as pick and place.
Furthermore, combining the latest techniques you can now realise systems which not only inspect the product but also handle the product, which are based on industrial cameras for grabbing images and robust image processing software for the inspection.
It is essential for manufacturing processes to automate to remain competitive and to cope with the demands of the world-wide consumer base. For these reasons alone, automated inspection is a key technology now and into the future.