Many reasons are often cited for deploying machine vision systems. These include improving tedious and repetitive manual inspection tasks that are prone to human error while increasing productivity at the same time.
In many manufacturing environments, single point inspection systems can determine whether a product has been properly assembled. If not, the product is then rejected and may be reworked or scrapped. Needless to say, such reworking may prove expensive if a product has gone through multiple manufacturing stages before being inspected.
To reduce the amount of reworking required, many manufacturers employ what is known as a "zero defects forward" approach. Rather than inspect a product after it has been fully assembled, the product is inspected after each step in the assembly process.
In this way, any defects that occur at each stage are recognized and can be more easily corrected before the next phase of assembly. In addition, such "zero defects forward" approaches save the time and money that would have otherwise be wasted by completing the assembly of a defective product that would ultimately need to be disassembled and then re-assembled.
To further improve the manufacturing process, manufacturers can also deploy vision-based robotics systems to automate the assembly task itself, relieving operators of the tedious job of doing so.
By deploying such systems in conjunction with vision-based inspection systems, manufacturers can further reduce assembly cost, increase productivity and eliminate human error. However, for many Smaller to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs), implementing fully automated robotic assembly systems may only be justified if the return on investment is high enough.
As an alternative, those enterprises who have already realized the benefits of implementing vision systems to inspect their products could consider deploy semi-automated assembly systems to evaluate their effectiveness.
In doing so, they will avoid the costs of implementing fully automated assembly systems, while at the same time reaping the benefits of semi-automated assembly before they ultimately and inexorably move towards a totally automated manufacturing environment.