Caire Industrie uses In-Sight® vision sensors on connector assembly machines for FCI Cognex

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 1 July 2006




(2006), "Caire Industrie uses In-Sight® vision sensors on connector assembly machines for FCI Cognex", Assembly Automation, Vol. 26 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Caire Industrie uses In-Sight® vision sensors on connector assembly machines for FCI Cognex

Caire Industrie uses In-Sight® vision sensors on connector assembly machines for FCI Cognex

Keywords: Image sensors, Electrical engineering

Located at Vendôme, near Blois, Caire Industrie is a major designer of specialist machinery, robotics and automated systems, specialising in industrial engineering. The company, which has been growing steadily, employs more than 40 people. For over 18 years, Caire Industrie has been providing large industrial companies with complete services and custom solutions. The company mainly operates in the automobile industry, through numerous operations for equipment manufacturers, in the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries, as well as in the nuclear industry, sectors for which it provides various services for specialist machinery, automation, vision systems and industrial computer systems.

Caire Industrie has proven it has a great ability to innovate in order to meet its customers' demands regarding productivity, safety, flexibility and quality. It is to reach these objectives that, several years ago, the company started to install some assembly machines with vision control systems. It was Cognex, whose vision tools are recognised for their power, their robustness and their perfect adaptability to the conditions of industrial use, that Caire Industrie very quickly took on as a supplier. Since, then, strengthened by the experience gained, and with more than 60 vision systems installed, the company became a Cognex Integrated Partner. This status places the company amongst the forty companies approved – and supported – by Cognex for implementing its vision systems in Europe.

Connector assembly machines for FCI

Amongst Caire Industrie's projects, those executed for FCI on the assembly of connectors constitute very interesting examples using industrial vision. In fact, for this FCI production unit, specialising in the manufacture of connectors for automobile manufacturers, the situation was complex: several different machines, using electro-pneumatic technology, had to be replaced and there were numerous demands: the rate had to be able to be increased and the equipment had to be very automated, compatible and reliable, as well as being able to process the numerous variants in assembly whilst limiting the number of non-conforming parts. Finally, it was imperative to meet the monitoring and quality control conditions put in place by the automobile manufacturers.

The assembly to be carried out consists of inserting four different components made up of plastic and rubber parts. Due to the various possible combinations and the colour of the components in the make up of the assemblies, the system must be able to process almost 40 different permutations. The specifications stated that the maximum quantity of defective parts attributable to the assembly machines had to be less than 1000 parts per million.

Caire Industrie suggested installing modular assembly machines with possibilities for additional features, using a rotating cam linkage technology. The machines installed are able to work up to 3,600 parts per hour and can assemble 2-6 components. The have a standard distribution system made up of vibrating bowls and rails, which distributes the various sub-assemblies that have to be placed in the plastic parts making up the body of the connector.

In accordance with FCI's request, the components making up the connector must be “validated” before assembly. Caire Industrie proposed the allocation of two Cognex In-Sight™ vision sensors for this inspection, of which one of the particular aspects concerns the checking of plastic parts. In fact, it turned out that a certain number of defects observed were due to injection moulded plastic parts, and in particular to material defects; these defects, which can appear at several points, are generally very difficult to detect and the use of vision sensors is especially efficient with this type of problem.

As checking the conformity of the fitting of various components is impossible once the connector has been finished, specific checks are needed during the different assembly stages. These operations have also been allocated to the In-Sight sensors. As some connection codes were also defined by the different coloured components, a colour camera was used for checking the conformity of the colours.

There are a total of 6 In-Sight vision sensors, each one carrying out a different function, fitted to each assembly machine. After setting the parameters and training them for the various defective configurations, the sensors were set to work and now carry out the various inspection operations which allow the automatic removal of non-conforming parts.

The wealth of the vision tools contained in the Cognex software has allowed all the types of defects which have been revealed on the moulded parts to be dealt with. The ability offered by the In-Sight sensors for memorising several configurations allows the inspection of more than 40 possible connector combinations to be carried out.

For cabling and response time reasons, and because of the Ethernet connectivity integrated with the In-Sight family of sensors, an Ethernet network has been used and all the cameras are connected to it. The operator uses a PC which allows the sensors to be configured, and on which the images of the inspection stages chosen to be viewed are displayed. The assembly operation can be checked that it is running correctly at any time. As soon as an assembly defect appears, the image is displayed directly on the PC screen. Therefore, the operator can check whether it is a defect on the moulded part, or whether it is a fault in the assembly caused by the machine.

The In-Sight vision sensors have successfully passed all the tests to which they were subjected and have succeeded in detecting all the identified defects at the required production rates – more than 3,000 parts per hour – an impossible result with other checking systems apart from vision systems. The adjustment of the detection thresholds on the sensors has allowed the elimination of the larger number of “false defects” resulting from the manufacturing tolerances of the components.

The exceptional complexity of the application is mainly due to the wide variety in assembly combinations and the colour parametering to be taken into account. Once all of the combinations had been validated, all the possible defects identified and environment problems resolved, the production has reached the expected performance in terms of parts per million.

Patrice Loriot, Chairman and Managing Director of Caire Industrie stated, We are perfectly controlling vision technology, and particularly the Cognex vision systems, which for us are the most powerful and efficient on the market. Our technicians have worked very closely with Cognex's experts; they have mastered all the tools and know how to best apply them. These are risk-free solutions which allow us to resolve every difficulty you can meet in a vision system application. In the end, environment problems are the most sensitive to resolve; you have to know about them and take them into account to successfully complete the application.

“As for the simplicity of use and transferring skills to the customer, Patrice Loriot added, `The Cognex In- Sight vision sensors are in fact very simple and very quick to configure and use. This proves to be so with the customer: after a short time in use, the customer takes full control of their vision system and becomes able to resolve some of the development issues which can occur.'”

There are currently ten machines operational at FCI. Caire Industrie is demonstrating with this operation that it is a real specialist in assembly machines and an expert in vision systems, which is naturally finding its place in these types of machines as it can operate in all stages of the procedure and support high production rates whilst ensuring that 100 percent of the production is checked.

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