High speed part inspection and sorting

Sensor Review

ISSN: 0260-2288

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



(2000), "High speed part inspection and sorting", Sensor Review, Vol. 20 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/sr.2000.08720baf.003



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

High speed part inspection and sorting

High speed part inspection and sorting

Keywords: Festo, Manufacturing, Automation, Inspection

Fast, efficient component inspection and delivery are vital elements in guaranteeing product quality and process productivity in today's high speed, automated manufacturing machinery. These are exactly the benefits offered by Festo's new Checkbox technologies: integrated automation solutions for high speed parts handling in production environments (see Plate 3).

Plate 3The Festo Checkbox for part recognition and orientation, quality inspection and sorting

In applications where the limits of conventional handling solutions (such as mechanical escapement bowl feeders) have been exceeded due to speed and part complexity, the Festo Checkbox family provides a fast, non-contact, optoelectronic solution for part recognition and orientation, quality inspection and sorting of different items on the same conveyer. Contact-free operation reduces wear and tear while improving reliability and consistency. The Checkbox concept was originally developed by Festo engineers to meet quality requirements in their own production facilities (see Figure 1).

Figure 1Festo checkbox

Checkbox is available in three different formats. Identbox checks parts for conformity and ejects bad and erroneous parts. Incorrectly orientated parts are sent back to the source to be rerun. Countbox adds to the Identbox facilities by counting the number of accepted and/or rejected parts and comparing this with a pre-selected target quantity ideal for collating batches of components. Sortbox adds yet further features, with multilevels of programmable blow-off eject allowing up to six components to be accurately sorted.

The system suits rotationally symmetric parts as well as pre-orientated parts of any geometry. Part diameters and lengths can range from 0.5 to 80mm and 3 to 80mm respectively.

Prices for complete systems start at £8.3k for Identbox, rising to around £10.5k for Sortbox with six nozzles. Stripped down OEM variants are priced at around £5k.

The Checkbox system comprises: a conveyer (80, 30 or 9mm wide); narrow, vertically mounted CCD camera array; LED illumination; industrial PC control unit; and pneumatic ejection/sorting nozzles. Industrial protection is IP54. Standard conveyor speed is 300mm/s. The Checkbox is CE approved and EMC certified.

Parts are delivered to the conveyer and pass the scanning head. A profile of the moving part is generated and a precise pixel count is used to determine length and height. Real-time image analysis software subdivides the profile to establish orientation. These parameters are compared to a good image example stored in memory. Checkbox can memorise up to six different components concurrently.

Additional CheckOpto software zooms to critical areas to measure fine details such as radii, chamfers and thread pitches. Off-line software tools provide extra facilities for charting, data-logging, trend analysis and mathematical/statistical functions.

Dimensional accuracy is 0.1mm for 30 and 80mm conveyors and 0.02mm for the 9mm conveyor. Conveyor speed is programmable and maximum component length is proportional to conveyor speed. Speed achievable for a 10mm long component would be 1,800 components per minute.

The system recognises new components via a learning process that takes only seconds. The user switches the control system to teach mode, selects orientation-1 and places good components on the conveyor (in the correct orientation) a minimum of four times consecutively. Then the user selects orientation-2 and feeds the part through a minimum of four times in the wrong orientation. Components chosen for teaching should ideally be at their upper and lower dimension, so the box can learn the range. The feed system can be set up for a part changeover by simply pressing a key. Up to 24 different parts can be stored in memory.

Over 100 Checkbox units are already in full-time production. A video demonstrating some of these applications is available.

For further information please contact: Nicola Street, Festo Ltd, Automation House, Harvest Crescent, Ancells Business Park, Fleet, Hampshire GU13 8XP, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1252 775000; Fax: +44 (0) 1252 775001; E-mail: nicola_street@festo.com