Cognex: 3D vision solutions for automotive applications

In manufacturing, working at high speeds while maintaining or increasing quality is the key to remaining competitive. The automotive industry has linked speed to costs since the first assembly line. At the speed of modern production lines, a few minutes can mean the difference between a million dollar profit and a million dollar loss.

As vehicles become more complex, connected, and regulated, it is imperative that automakers review processes and materials to protect their customers while avoiding bottlenecks to protect their business. Fortunately, smart cameras and advanced software can work together to solve these challenges. The following examples show how automotive inspection systems integrate 3D image processing solutions to meet specific requirements and improve manufacturing quality.

Tire inspection

Tire manufacturers face a variety of challenges. The tire inspection includes the detection of tracks, overlaps and other defects. Inspecting complex geometries and heights can be difficult for 2D vision systems, especially when detecting black features on a black rubber surface. In order to accurately and repeatedly capture imperfections, the automotive industry needs 3D solutions.

Designed with simplicity in mind

Compact 3D imaging solutions must be easy to use and offer software that in-house technicians can easily integrate, manage, and maintain. In a real tire inspection application, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 vision system from Cognex detects defects in the tire layers. The intelligent camera works seamlessly with In-Sight software so technicians can quickly set up tools and planes. The software then determines each pixel above and below the set levels and presents features and defects with linear measurements in an intuitive user interface. Technicians make changes using the In-Sight spreadsheet programming environment and easily perform maintenance with the real 3D edge, blob and height tools of the In-Sight 3D-L4000.

Flush and gap testing

Another common application in the automotive industry is flush and gap testing. This inspection is relatively straightforward, so the value is in the details. A 2D system can determine if a gap between a door and a body panel is consistent. However, with a 2D system, it is more difficult to determine whether two panels are flush or on the same plane. A 3D system can tell if plates are on the same plane, but to find the best solution, manufacturers need to consider speed, accuracy and software.

At an automotive OEM, user-friendly edging, planing and splitting tools are combined with a 3D vision solution that enables the operator to quickly set up and perform flush and gap checks. The compact smart camera In-Sight 3D-L4000 from Cognex uses its high-quality 2K resolution, the maximum scan rate of 4 kHz and the patented spot-free blue laser optics to perform machine vision inspections with fast, accurate and repeatable results.

The In-Sight 3D-L4000’s unique blue laser optical design offers several advantages, including:

  • Patented spot-free laser

  • 2M eye-safe operation

  • More light to the surface than competing solutions

  • Precise 3D point clouds for measurements

  • Ability to capture a scan even if a percentage of the laser is blocked by dirt

This last feature is an unprecedented achievement in 3D laser scanning made possible by the patented spot-free laser optics. Most laser scanning applications limit the designer’s ability to mount the scanner upside down because of concerns about foreign objects blocking the laser light.

Robot assembly benefits from compact design

While the Cognex software and the smart camera work together seamlessly in this application, the compact design is an important decision criterion when selecting the In-Sight 3D-L4000. When potential solutions – 2D or 3D – require external controllers or connections to a PC, the integration is more complicated and the systems can consume more valuable floor space. More specifically, in robotic arm applications, the wires connecting external devices can prevent movement. The compact In-Sight 3D-L4000 does not require an external PC or driver, making it ideal for fast integration and robotic arm end effector applications.

Several systems can work in the flush and gap inspection. However, in order to be competitive in the automotive industry, it is important to find the best solutions. With its ease of use, integration options and compact design, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 offers the greatest competitive advantage in the inspection line.

In addition to user-friendly edge, plan and height tools for continuous and discontinuous inspection, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 offers a blob tool for volume measurements to improve cast and molded part inspection to improve quality and reduce errors in the automotive manufacturing environment.

Casting and injection molding inspection

Casting and injection molding are precise processes. Temperatures, environmental conditions, wear and tear over time, and other variables can lead to lightning strikes and short shots. Testing molded parts is not just about passing or failing a part. Inspection is also about knowing if a part is complete or needs rework. With the number of parts produced annually by the automotive industry, inspection is critical to achieving a consistent supply chain of reliable parts.

In an automotive casting process, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 boosts production and maintains quality by using intuitive tools to precisely inspect the volume of automotive parts for lightning and short shots.

Using an intelligent camera, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 checks the total volume of the parts in two ways:

  • The intuitive PatMax3D – which finds the part in 3D space.

  • Blob3D for measuring volumes and checking for defects.

The smart camera is equipped with In-Sight software that presents data in spreadsheets to clearly and effectively communicate errors. The user-friendly interface also enables in-house technicians to learn the software in just a few minutes. The In-Sight 3D-L4000 is a complete 3D solution that provides valuable results for casting and other inspection processes in the automotive industry. Each application successfully and quickly integrates advanced 3D vision solutions into high-end automotive inspection processes.

Production is more automated, networked and faster than ever. To stay at the forefront of competition in the automotive industry, easy-to-integrate solutions like the In-Sight 3D-L4000 are required.

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