Vision integration speeds production, cuts waste for plastics manufacturer

Automation Integrator Guide: New vision system simplifies product inspection for a more efficient manufacturing process.


A custom human-machine interface (HMI) enables an operator to set up and monitor part inspections performed by Teledyne Dalsa’s Sherlock machine vision software. Courtesy: Teledyne DalsaA U.S.-based plastics manufacturer that also operates facilities abroad worked with an Intek Systems, a distributor and system integrator, looking beyond an existing automation supplier with products that were too costly and couldn’t meet specific requirements.

Many everyday consumer products that are simple in appearance, form, and function are often produced through a highly complex manufacturing process. Yet even the most complicated processes can be simplified and improved—often very cost effectively—when disparate technology is replaced with a fully integrated, best-of-breed solution. And, for many manufacturers, these solutions can be found by partnering with a system integrator or automation distributor.

Intek has experience in servo, motion control, machine vision, safety solutions, and pneumatics, said John Bridgen, senior applications engineer at Intek Systems, to integrate automation “using open architecture components to address each specific customer problem.”

Light and dark challenges

“The customer was in the process of buying a servo-driven control from one vendor, a Web-control solution from a second vendor, and a vision system from Intek,” Bridgen said. The products needed to be interoperable to improve production capabilities, and the proposed solution would have been difficult for the maintenance team to support, he said. The manufacturer wanted to speed the accurate sealing and separating of each product and incorporate special product features.

At a production rate of six parts per second, with a web that encompassed 15 processes and spanned hundreds of feet in length, ensuring the accuracy and coordination of all components was critical, Bridgen said. Further, based on continuous control variations, key elements of the manufacturing process occurred at distinct points on the machine that were not relative to each other. Frequent adjustments were required because the materials used were very pliable and susceptible to changes in temperature.

Teledyne Dalsa’s Genie camera instantly captures and transfers images to the operator, who can immediately reject the defective product, dramatically reducing waste. Courtesy: Teledyne DalsaIn the customer’s initial configuration, which limited control, a missed manufacturing-process element would result in increased scrap due to the rejection of hundreds of pieces in one shift. The customer’s challenges were compounded because, depending on pending orders, the line could produce products of different colors, dark and light. This made monitoring the manufacturing process even more difficult, and it was something the customer’s existing vision system couldn’t accommodate.

“Once we understood the customer’s challenges, we knew that we needed to incorporate a more robust vision system,” Bridgen said. Specifications and samples were sent to another vision supplier, where they were quickly imaged. The customer “could see instantly how using the right tools would provide the most effective solution to their challenges.”

Top lights, bottom lights

Project requirements were met using a vision system, 640 x 480 pixel monochrome camera, and strobe control. The installation included a set of top lights, which allowed for accurate imaging of the darker products, and a set of bottom lights, which ensured accuracy with lighter products.

Along with the vision system, which provided process feedback and quality checks, the solution incorporated a high-speed servo system to complete the manufacturing process.  The Kollmorgen servo system, which is also connected to the Ethernet network, uses information from the vision system to provide on-the-fly corrections to the process control.

As the installation was nearing completion, hourly quality control checks were taken on the products produced on the new production line, Bridgen said. “Production managers remarked that it was amazing to see how consistent the finished products were.”

The solution also included an all-in-one HMI-PLC for the operator interface, data collection, and reject system that are integrated into one control panel and connected over the Ethernet network via Modbus TCP Ethernet protocol.

The solution allows capabilities beyond what was available previously, said Bridgen, “for less than half of what they would have paid for the systems they originally considered, which would have worked only with light colored materials, and with inferior results.”

Ideal in a manufacturing environment, Teledyne Dalsa’s GEVA vision system easily captures images of both light and dark products for efficient quality control. Courtesy: Teledyne DalsaIn the two years since development and implementation of the first system, the installation provided the manufacturer with greater control, particularly over the number of products that are rejected. When the vision system identifies a “bad” product, the operator can tell immediately where it is in the web and set the reject mechanism to discard that specific product, as well as the ones immediately before or after, or based on whatever reject criteria are appropriate. This dramatically reduced the number of finished products that don’t meet specifications.

The plastics manufacturer has deployed and duplicated this line in the U.S. where they have multiple production lines; the project has since been relocated to another of the company’s facilities as a turnkey solution.

Intek worked with the machine vision vendor to support the line after relocation.

- Ben Dawson is director of strategic development at Teledyne Dalsa. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering,

Key concepts

  • At six parts per second, integration, accuracy, and coordination of components were critical.
  • Technologies: machine vision, HMI-PLC, data collection, and reject system integrated into one control panel, connected via Ethernet
  • Lighting above and below helped with light and dark products.

Consider this

How would vision-enabled automated quality control help any of your processes?


Select an automation system integrator with machine vision experience:

Also read

Technologies inside: Vision integration speeds production, cuts waste for plastics manufacturer

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.