As a leading global component supplier to the automotive industry, the Keiper GmbH & Co. Group in Germany develops and manufactures metal seat components and structures for automotive industry suppliers and manufacturers. Quality control using vision technology on the production line has brought flexible production lines, investment return in under a year, and increased efficiency.
The company’s range of products meets demand in the automotive sector for intelligent adjuster systems and innovative seat structures, both for front and rear seats. The company was looking for new ways to make the presence and variant inspection of components on the production line more flexible and reliable. In the past, it used a complex mechanical control system, equipped with a number of touch controls, which proved less than dependable.
A Production Obstacle Course
Before embarking on a vision solution, the different challenges that would present themselves had to be considered. The various elements in the production process that could potentially prove problematic to a vision system included:
- Some 20 different types of components had to be identified with 100% reliability on each production line.
- The individual components needed to be inspected for defects and correct positioning. Components were likely to vary in color and aspect, despite being identical in shape and dimension.
- Parts may have entirely different colors depending on the supplier.
- Oily films still present on the surface.
- Some parts are pitch-black while others have a metallic sheen.
Keiper awarded the project to Octum, a Partner System Integrator (PSI) of Cognex Corp. (Natick, MA), having considered their vision proposition based on In-Sight® vision sensors. Cognex technology proved capable of providing a vision solution robust enough to handle the challenge. The In-Sight 5403 vision sensor provided high resolution and high precision, even for large components, when measuring parts offering greater production flexibility. The In-Sight 5400 vision sensor family includes a range of software tools such as Pat-Max®, which functions using the geometrical structures of objects (similar to CAD). The most important characteristics of an object such as edges, dimensions, shapes, angles, arcs, and shades are isolated, identified, and compared to the real-time image. Analysis of the data permits the operator to accurately define the objects position.
Reliable feature detection and incorporation of the In-Sight vision sensors in production offered the company other benefits. For example, with the individual component variants there are minor differences as to whether the right- or left-hand-fitting side of the seat is concerned. Sometimes the right parts are inserted on the wrong side of a seat. Precise feature detection by the vision tools identifies such problems and notifies the operators. The error is corrected and production flow is not interrupted.
A complete turnkey system solution was implemented in only six weeks. The first control station was installed in June 2006 and has been operating reliably in three shifts since then. Given the satisfactory results, another control cell was established at the plant in Germany in February 2007. During this time, the customer-specific user interface Octum designed for Keiper has made programming easier for machine operators and maintenance staff.
For more information on In-Sight vision sensors from Cognex, visit http://info.hotims.com/15132-154.