When discussing the proper steps for machine vision integration, famous words by Benjamin Franklin ring true – “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
With a machine vision market that is fraught with cheap, unreliable camera inspection solutions, it’s crucial to understand the steps that a trustworthy vision integrator takes to provide you with a rigid, reliable vision inspection system that will last the lifetime of your manufacturing process.
In this blog, you will receive a step-by-step breakdown of preparation required for a successful machine vision integration. By the end of this blog, you will have built a set of expectations for your next machine vision integrator.
Step 1: Conceptualizing Your Vision System
Every vision integration project starts in the concept stage. While some vision integrators will provide fully designed concept specifications before your first meeting, a savvy vision integrator won’t begin conceptualizing your vision system until after the initial spec meeting. After all, how can a vision integrator provide you with an efficient, reliable vision system without first understanding the scope of your manufacturing process? During the concept stage, your vision integrator should:
- Ask the right questions –The vision integrator should take responsibility for extracting the project details and scope of work.
- Demonstrate past experiences– Ask your vision integrator for case studies that show similar vision system solutions, challenges and technologies.
- Discuss multiple solution options –To accomplish your inspection goals, you and your integrator should work together to align on what’s best.
- Establish concept action plan – The vision integrator should explain the next steps for vision system feasibility testing, design, fabrication and integration.
Step 2: Front End Engineering for Vision Systems
Once you and your vision integrator align on the vision system concept, the next step is to conduct a front-end engineering (FEE) study for your vision system application in a vision lab. FEE is key to staying within your budget while meeting your inspection requirements. Primary objectives for FEE include proving feasibility, capability and establishing proof of concept. At the end of FEE, your vision integrator can provide recommendations for:
- Camera selection
- Lighting selection
- Defined project timeline
- Defined system requirements
- Defined system capabilities
- Fixed price for the system
Find a vision integrator who has their own vision lab. A vision lab offers a controlled environment for testing camera selection, lighting options and vision system arrangement. A quality vision integrator will be equipped with a variety of tools including brackets, cameras, lights, lenses, test stations, and an assortment of filters and other equipment to fully test the proposed vision inspection system. If your vision integrator doesn’t have the equipment needed to test the proposed solution in their lab, they should be able to call on relationships with vendors to procure trial equipment.
Step 3: Vision Inspection System Design
After FEE concludes, it’s time to design your vision system. During design, your vision system’s brackets will be modeled in 3D CAD software, camera programming will be expanded and completed, and the electrical design for power and controls will be prepared. Ideally, your vision integrator will be able to complete all mechanical and electrical design in-house to reduce costs and deliver your vision system within a reasonable timeline. The vision system design stage includes:
- Mechanical Design – 3D design software is used to model brackets, mobile carts and control panels that are used to create your customized vision system. Optimal camera and lighting arrangements will be built to seamlessly integrate within existing plant machinery.
- Electrical Design – Control panels are designed to integrate all required power, controls networks and interfaces necessary for a turnkey vision system. Careful consideration must be given to the electrical design to ensure the controls harmonize efficiently with existing plant devices.
- Programming – Different inspection systems require different types of programming. Software and hardware selections can be based on solution requirements or customer hardware requirements.
Step 4: Vision System Fabrication
This step entails the fabrication of brackets, control panels and full assembly of the entire vision system. Vision systems can be built to fit with existing factory equipment or as stand-alone systems. At this stage, your vision integrator should be considering:
- Part Selection – Engineers now step in and combine custom brackets, frames and assemblies crafted with off-the-shelf slides, cylinders and ball screws for a fully integrated vision system.
- Electrical Panel Fabrication – Electrical panels for power supply, system controls, inputs/outputs and operator interfaces are often included in the final vision system. Your vision integrator should be able to build all electrical panels in-house and fully integrate them with your vision system before installation at your facility.
Step 5: Vision System Integration
Vision systems deliver the greatest value when they integrate seamlessly with your existing production machinery. By this step, your vision integrator will have prepared for a wide range of scenarios, from operating temperatures to existing communication platforms. Your vision system should:
- Operate correctly in your plant – Your vision system should not interfere with existing operations. This means ensuring the system is not disrupted by ambient light, extreme temperatures, dust, vibrations or other factors.
- Integrate completely – The vision system should integrate with the larger plant network.
- Pass all the tests –Systems should be tested before and after shipment, and you should be given the opportunity to be an integral part of the testing and approval process.
- Collect critical data– Critical data can be collected from vision systems, and your vision application must tie into any higher-level data reporting systems essential to your plant operations.
Step 6: Onsite Services
Full installation of your vision system means all hardware is installed, power and controls are integrated with the plant and the vision software is working correctly. Upon installation, your vision integrator should re-test all equipment to ensure components work together as intended. Beyond installation, they should provide complete vision system start-up, checkout support and vision system training to your line operators. Onsite services include:
- Onsite Installation
- Plant Specific Safety Practices
- Static Checkout
- Start-up &Support
EPIC Vision Systems Solutions
At EPIC Systems, we’ve delivered a wide range of turnkey vision systems in some of the most challenging plant environments. We’re here to make the process easy for you and deliver the highest quality vision system for your particular manufacturing process.