INDUSTRIAL INSPECTION EXPERTISE

Inspection Systems have been designing industrial machine vision systems since the 1980s and have over 70 man-years of accumulated experience. Applications include optical character recognition, component identification, web inspection and robot vision and we offer a full design and manufacture service which can encompass:

 

  • mechanical support structures
  • lighting
  • electrical sub-systems
  • imaging hardware
  • capture and analysis software
  • interfacing to control systems
  • front-end GUIs

 

Our approach is simple - we assess your needs and design the best system to meet them at the best price. Typically this involves:

 

  • Assessment of samples at no obligation. If we can’t handle the job we’ll tell you and do our best to recommend someone who can.
  • A site visit to discuss our recommendations and determine the best approach to proceed.
  • A feasibility study if required or desired. A minimal outlay means of deciding if the project will deliver everything required of it.
  • System design
    • If you’ve already invested in equipment and just need help getting it to perform we’re authorised integrators for Stemmer Imaging, Multipix and Cognex and have experience with rapid development tools such as Common Vision Blox, Sherlock, Labview and Insight.
    • If your existing package can’t quite deliver what is required, we can write specific algorithms for packages that allow external function calls.
    • If you have no prior equipment we can source everything required for you.
  • System Installation. A managed process tailored to fit your production schedules so as to minimise downtime.
  • Monitoring. We make sure the system performs to specification before we leave site.
  • Training. For engineers and operators, with the appropriate level of information.
  • On-going support. We’re only ever a phone call or email away to assist if required.

 

With over 80 systems currently in operation across 6 continents we know we have the experience and knowledge to take a project from concept through to market. Our philosophy is to take a practical and pragmatic approach to delivering the required functionality at the optimum price with a low cost of ownership throughout the working life of the system.

 

70 man-years of accumulated experience
Our engineers have backgrounds in machine vision, physics, electronics, engineering and maintenance. That means we not only design our systems to work on day 1, we design them to keep working. Some of our Eagle-I systems for example have racked up over 15 years of continuous operation in an industrial environment with only basic scheduled maintenance required.

 

Assessment of samples at no obligation
We won’t undertake a job if we don’t think we can deliver a system that meets your requirements. The first step therefore is to take a good look at what you need. If you can provide samples we’ll undertake to a devise a test bench system to determine the optimal way to examine them at your price point. That way, if we can’t meet your expectations you get the feedback as early in the process as possible. We have a wide variety of equipment in-house and can generally loan additional items if required from main distributors such as Stemmer Imaging and Multipix, so we don’t need to shoehorn a solution into what’s convenient. As we’re not tied to any one specific manufacturer you can be sure that we’re recommending the equipment that we think is best for the job.

 

System design
We have considerable in-house expertise in CAD design and manufacture using platforms such as SolidWorks, AutoCAD and CadKey. Our workshop contains a range of equipment suitable for both prototyping and small-scale precision manufacturing, and we have a long-term relationship with local fabricators for larger items.

 

As an example of using our expertise to design a system around specific requirements, a client in Argentina needed our Eagle-I system for a conveyor which had a number of safety fences around the inspection point. No CAD drawings were available, so using a set of basic measurements and photographs we mocked up the physical layout of the area and modified our standard Eagle-I design to straddle the fences. The client was able to check our CAD model and assure themselves that there was no interference, and the system was successfully installed.

 

An example where our mechanical input was not required is when a client wished to monitor a process crucial to their production which was located in a harsh environment. They used their own in-house expertise to devise the physical means of acquiring the image data required and contracted our services to develop the software. Their preferred solution was based around Sherlock and we generated a package comprising a user interface to their specification, a set of image programming algorithms that provided additional functionality required but not available within the standard Sherlock library, and a communications package that allowed the system to send and receive data to plant equipment using the client’s standard methodology.

 

On completion of the project we provided the client with full documentation and source code to enable them to roll the project out to other plants without our involvement.

 

Specific algorithms
A good example of our ability to integrate specific functionality into an existing system is our “LabGrab” project. Here a major float glass manufacturer had already sourced a machine vision system based around line scan cameras, Sapera and LabView but found that they were unable to make this “out of the box” solution process the data quickly enough to maintain the required image capture rate.

 

After a short feasibility study we undertook an agreed number of days work to write a bespoke DLL to interface between LabView and the image processing hardware.   The DLL contained data reduction and image processing functions that could be called from within a LabView Virtual Instrument which the client had already written. These additional functions enabled the LabView processing to keep up with the camera line rate and perform the desired image processing tasks.

 

On completion of the project we provided the client with full documentation and source code to enable them to carry out further work without our involvement if desired.

 

System Installation
An Eagle-I system, for example, comprises a large goalpost structure which needs to sit over a conveyor typically 4m wide, with installations often scheduled to happen during normal production. Ahead of the on-site days we’ll liaise with site personnel and provide as much information as possible to allow them to complete any preparation work before the main installation begins. This means processes which require conveyor stoppage can be scheduled into production breaks if possible.

 

Once on site we’ll work closely with site personnel to manage the installation so as to make best use of their resources. So if we need a crane driver we’ll aim to get all of the lifting done in a specified time period; if we need an electrician we’ll make sure he has the information required to plan his cables runs etc.

 

Throughout the installation we’re always available to explain what we’re doing and why; by conveying information to the people who’ll be responsible for the system once we’ve left we can be confident that they’re comfortable with handling the equipment and taking ownership.

 

Training
Training is an integral part of any system installation and this is why Inspection systems ensure that this takes place each time after the system is operational.  This allows the engineers to work closely with the client and overcome any potential uncertainties with how the system operates. There are also written and on line manuals to help refresh and answer any of the most frequently asked questions.

 

On-going support
Any system we have installed automatically comes with a 1 year warranty therefore any issues which happen within this time period are covered.  Although we are a UK based company we have gained a strong worldwide reputation for support of our existing systems. This has been echoed by our customers stating over the last 7 years or continued support have been second to none. 

 

Take a project from concept through to market
Our IQ system was originally developed in conjunction with a client and provides a good case study of our methodology. The client (based in the USA) had been investigating the problem using local sources for some time before our involvement, but had been unable to find anyone who could meet their specification. We discussed the problem with them during one of our regular meetings and felt we could help, so undertook to do our own investigations. A report was generated which described several possible methodologies with their pros and cons and the client asked us to pursue the most promising of these. A more detailed set of tests was then performed and a follow-up report generated, and based o that the client agreed to fund a trial system, the costs of which would be offset against a full system if the trials went well. Following a successful trial a full system was developed and installed, and is currently being marketed to other sites.

 

Practical and pragmatic approach

The aim for each and every project is to come to a conclusion within a short time period. The process is therefore initiated with a first meeting followed by samples being sent and inspected in our onsite laboratory. The next step is a written report detailing our findings and finally a route forward with our suggested solution. This is an extremely practical approach which is cost effective and allows both parties to work closely together.