Are You Using Machine Vision yet to Boost Your Throughput and Quality? 

Many manufacturers are using machine vision to help improve efficiency, speed, and quality in a variety of applications while reducing operational costs. This blog will outline machine vision technology, explain its advantages, and highlight some typical applications.

What is Machine Vision?

Machine vision cameras serve as the “eyes” of industrial machinery and robots. Machine vision automates manufacturing tasks such as locating parts for robots to pick from bins and conveyors, inspecting finished parts and assemblies, high-speed sorting of mixed items, tracking goods using barcodes, reading text, confirming serial numbers, and many other tasks that are too dull and laborious for human workers.   Machine vision is not new, and improvements in sensors, cameras, lenses, lighting, machine learning, and other Industry 4.0 technologies have led to even greater gains in efficiency and quality.

Machine vision requires the use of special cameras, specific colors and intensities of lighting, dedicated programming software, and sometimes a dedicated controller. There are several types of machine vision systems, ranging from simple 2D applications to complex 3D inspections.  A computer vision system, which uses a dedicated industrial computer, is best suited for such complex applications.

In most vision systems, the camera takes pictures of an item/s, and then the controller analyzes the images to locate, inspect, and measure the item/s and compares them to those in trained images to make decisions based on its programming.

Many modern machine vision systems consist of a camera that has built-in lighting and a built-in processor to analyze images. These are simpler to set up, simpler to use, compact, and suitable for many tasks and applications.  Even more compact models send the image to an external device, such as a tablet, to be analyzed. These offer high performance in a small size with straightforward operation.

How Can Machine Vision Enhance the Manufacturing Process?

  • Increase throughput: Machine vision systems can perform visual tasks far faster than human workers, so they can greatly increase speed and efficiency in a variety of applications.
  • Reduce scrap: Machine vision systems can be installed in places in the manufacturing process where human operators cannot go, and they can monitor the process in many more areas continuously.  This means manufacturing defects are caught before much material and time is wasted.
  • Improve quality: Machine vision systems also perform visual tasks with far greater reliability and confidence than human workers.
  • Improve workplace safety: Since machine vision reduces the amount of human involvement in manufacturing processes, especially in hazardous locations, it reduces the risk of injuries and lost-time incidents.

6 Manufacturing Applications for Machine Vision Systems

While there are hundreds of applications in which manufacturers are using machine vision systems, these six provide a good sampling of the possibilities:

  1. Quality inspection: Machine vision systems can inspect objects for compliance with geometric and dimensional tolerances, and they can find subtle defects such as scratches and dents.
  2. Packaging inspection: Machine vision systems ensure that products are correctly packaged, labeled, palletized, and tracked all the way to the end user.
  3. Assembly lines: Machine vision systems are used to locate parts on conveyors or in bins for robots to pick, and they can inspect assemblies as they progress.
  4. Sorting and counting: Machine vision systems can count and sort items based on size, shape, color, and other features.  Some systems are made for high-speed, high-volume applications such as the machines that remove pebbles and other contaminants from streams of grain at flour mills.
  5. Ensuring correct measurements: Machine vision can be used to automatically and accurately measure the dimensions of parts.
  6. Supply chain assurance: Machine vision systems are used to track and trace the movement of products throughout the supply chain to ensure visibility, identify shortages, and manage inventories.

With their ability to boost throughput and quality while reducing costs and risks in a multitude of applications, machine vision systems provide a way for manufacturers to reach productivity goals and remain competitive. For more information on how it can be applied in your facility, please contact JHFOSTER.