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Towards Future Factories: Automatic Quality Control

Reboot IoT Factory works to re-imagine the automation levels of existing processes in the factories. Developing and using AI, intelligent algorithms, software robotics and robotics process automation the project helps the factories develop new intelligent ways for production. Automatic quality control is a field with promising applications of automatized visual inspection.

We talked with Ilpo Tanskanen and Markus Broman from ABB Porvoo and Vili Kellokumpu from VTT about the theme automatic quality control and more precisely, about visual inspection. The field is moving towards automatization with machine vision, learning systems and neural networks. Visual inspection is also a handy way to acquire measured information, data, and quality control.

“Opportunities created by developing digitalisation help the factories take robotics and automation to the next level. Reboot IoT Factory is a sure way to achieve this goal”, say Markus and Ilpo. “The project offers different approach to innovations: the participant SMEs create solutions for the factories and productize them. The researchers bring in the scientific approach. The way of working is different than we have used to in corporate life. In business it is usual to run rapid tests and set mind towards future needs. Now we have a large knowledge and research base and testing laboratories that we can use. We get help to our projects and achieve better understanding along with the better results.”

Factory as an Innovation Platform

Factories’ roles as innovation platforms make it possible to successfully merge different approaches to develop new solutions. The co-operation was fruitful. The first Proof of Concept developed with ABB Porvoo was about visual inspection and was completed in co-operation with VTT. It dealt with quality control of a surface of the product and finding aberrations. The purpose of this PoC was to find the right equipment for this task.

Before the Reboot IoT Factory project, 5 pairs of human eyes carried out the quality control procedure and the factory was eager to find another, automatized solution. The focus was on researching the methods, not building any device. The Reboot IoT Factory made it possible to work with a world class expert.

The expert, Vili Kellokumpu, worked with the technical solutions of PoCs together with the companies. His area of expertise are optical measurements, machine vision and imaging.

Vision: A Self-Correcting System in Quality Control

In the future, a self-correcting system lets the computer know how to develop production. The first step, finding the errors is already working. The technology for correcting the aberrations automatically is existing, but it has not been possible yet to utilise it in producing plastic objects.

Markus and Ilpo are enthusiastic about the project:

“Strategic PoCs can offer these future solutions. We will continue automatization and digitalisation in ABB Porvoo and invest in skills. Reboot IoT Factory work has been a great window to the future. We feel that sharing knowledge serves strategic thinking and the technological knowledge increases in this kind of co-working.”

Increasing automatization and digitalisation is an indisputable trend of industry. Vili clarifies that automatised visual inspection can use wavelengths invisible to human eye making it more precise.

“Neural-networks have made a breakthrough in image analysis and when suitable imaging techniques are applied the quality of the image is so good that you can spot the problems in quality of the product inspected.”

Collecting production data and utilising it is the future. Machine learning and AI complete the vision.

Responding the Factory’s Needs Ideal for All

The theme, automatic quality control and the PoCs related to it came from the factory. It is reasonable to start with them as the other operators are often more agile and the factory moves slowly.

The beginning of the PoC work started with samples. A prototype was created after that in the lab. The PoC was first demonstrated in a small scale. Rapid testing and productizing finalised the work. The results were good.

“Results on a larger scale include delivering important knowledge based on scientific research, but also actual products. Technical development of machine vision made this possible”, Vili explains.

Markus and Ilpo unwrap the current challenges: “Objects with shiny surfaces and 3D objects. The solution for them must be tailored as there are no such equipment in the market that would be ready and suitable for our needs of quality control of surfaces. Now we know which technology can be applied and which not. The process was smooth: rapid testing, minimum investment and scientific validation were the cornerstones.

The work continues with the second PoC. The financial investment is on totally different level now when it is clear what methods to use. The situation is ideal for the factory and the company developing the solution. The product development moves ahead based on the needs of the factory. That is exceptional in corporate life.

This project was part of Reboot IoT Factory’s Grand Challege 2: Robotics Fusion

Text: Veera Kiurujoki, Design Inspis Oy

Picture: Design Inspis Oy

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