SurfaceVision - The world’s first seeing robot
The human eye is very sensitive. The tiniest irregularities on smooth, glossy surfaces are perceived as defects in certain light. The result: the quality impression of the acquired products suffers, whether it is large panels on car exteriors or the surfaces on electronic devices. This poses a major problem, particularly to the automotive industry, because so far it has only been possible to inspect injection molded parts for defects manually. The results were subjective and non- reproducible and particularly unsatisfactory when inspectors from suppliers and equipment manufacturers arrived at different conclusions. Complete, in-line inspection has been considered hardly feasible until now.
The "artificial eye"
An "artificial eye" developed at the Polymer Competence Center Leoben remedies this. The SurfaceVision project has made it possible for the first time to automatically and quickly measure defects on the surfaces of injected molded parts even during production.
The central aspect is the deployment of robots that unload parts from an injection molding machine. The opto-mechanical system simulates human visual perception of surfaces, accurately assesses the quality of curved parts, and documents the results reproducibly. For the first time, a verifiable basis for quality inspection has been created that will signify a marked decrease in “false rejects” and potential “defects not found.”
Defective injection molded parts can be rejected in time, before they continue to the next, expensive production cycles such as paint coating or metallization. This constitutes a huge cost-saving potential, as coated parts can be up to 15 times more expensive than uncoated parts. In addition, significant savings can be achieved with respect to material and energy consumption.
The feedback from prestigious manufacturers of highly sophisticated plastic components and their customers - for example the automotive industry - has been positive. The project won the Magna ACS Innovation Award 2013. The project manager, Dieter P. Gruber, won a Houska Prize in 2014 in addition to being named Austrian of the Year in the category Research.
Polymer Competence Center Leoben GmbH
Other Consortium Partners
Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH