Obsolescence is often the logic that older equipment needs to be replaced. The operating system may be out of date, the cameras not available as spares etc. Its possible to take older inspection systems and rework them, reducing CapEx requirements and also risk. The following looks at the costs, risks and benefits associated with upgrading your older print and surface inspection systems.
The effects of choosing proprietary vision solutions become evident within years of a purchase. Imagine investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions in a network and finding out 5 years later that the complete system is out of date and cannot be modernized. Yes, you would seek out the purchaser and possibly hang them from the nearest tree. However it never fails to amuse me that the same thought process making sure office infrastructures are open systems, are not employed when purchasing an IT solution for the factory floor.
Now it’s time to upgrade that vision system that was purchased as a black box. Let’s look at this by asking three key questions.
- Can I upgrade my old system?
- What will upgrading my old system cost?
- What are the business benefits of upgrading my old systems?
Can I upgrade my old system?
Inspection solutions tend to be specified according to the process. The reason to upgrade is normally driven by one of the following.
- The system never worked as specified. In this case the imaging technology may not be appropriate. Can you add more cameras or change lights? If adding more cameras, can you source more of the same installed? Often upgrading for this reason is risky and it may be better to consider a replacement.
- The vendor support is poor. This is probably the easiest form of upgrade to do if the incumbent vendor used conformed to open system standards. The goal here would be to retain as much as possible. It is probably that the PC, processing hardware and software would be changed out and the goal should be to retain, cameras, lights, mechanics and power distribution, see our blog post on choosing the right system components.
- The system cannot be supported due to obsolete parts. The parts need to be identified and the knock on effects verified.
- The line is being upgraded and the requirements have changed. The new specification needs to be clearly defined, see our whitepaper on how to specify a web inspection system.
- There is a need to extract value through integration and the older system cannot deliver. The key here is understand what data is made available by the existing system and if that data can be used. It may be necessary to swap out the processing unit for a new solution with the application that can deliver the results required.
There are three key parts to an inspection system:
- The imaging system - this includes cameras, optics, illumination and of course sometimes the product itself. These are the parts should be saved.
- The processing system - this is the PC or embedded hardware along with the software to analyze the images. This is normally the element that will need to be swapped out.
- The output system - This includes the display for the operator, alarms to be initiated, the parent machine interface, and the data to be output. These are parts that should be reused.
The first step is to analyze the parts used in the inspection system. If you are replacing the vendors then the PC and the software will most like be written off. The key element to consider is the imaging head. This includes the mechanical beams, the encoder, the lighting and the cameras.
The steps to take:
- Do you have an electrical drawing or system layout drawings for the inspection system?
- Determine the make and model of the cameras. This is key as it is important to know if the camera is proprietary (smart camera) or an industry standard. If industry standard the key is to understand which communication standard. Is it LVDS, CamLink etc?
- What type of lighting is used? Is it LED lighting or older fluorescent, or tungsten sources?
Is there an auto-light control feature?
- What lens are being used?
Yes you can upgrade your inspection system. However think through the reasons why and make sure you analyze the costs in detail. It may be worth paying an expert to visit and see if it is possible prior to jumping in and commissioning a project. We have a group of posts that deal more with this topic, and you can find them all in our whitepaper.