Monday, April 20, 2009

Machine vision success story

Machine vision is not new, yet I’m still surprised by how many people in manufacturing treat it with a suspicion usually reserved for politicians and emails from Nigeria.

News flash folks!! Machine vision is a proven technology. It works!

That message should be reinforced by this case study culled from Quality Magazine (March 30th, 2009.) In “
Quality at 400 Blades per Minute” Managing Editor Maggie McFadden describes a factory that has made vision part of its standard equipment.

The part that really caught my eye was this: “… with 10 million [razor] blades made at the plant daily, it’s impossible to rely on the human eye for inspection.” The article then goes on to list some of the machine vision applications to be seen in the plant.

Notice how people at the plant dismiss human inspection. Although the justification is not spelt out, I think it’s safe to assume that:

(a) An awful lot of inspectors would be needed to 100% inspect 10 million blades per day. And at a fully loaded cost of say $20 per hour, (the plant is in the US,) that would make the product just too expensive for the market, and

(b) If we accept the oft-quoted figure of human inspection being only 80% effective, there would be the potential for a lot of poor quality blades to reach retailer’s shelves (and perhaps my chin.)

So the smart people at the plant just put machine vision to work. And I’m willing to bet that the more systems they install, the easier it becomes. It’s just a learning curve thing; give it a go, you might like it.

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