Hand-counting piston rings as small as 0.29 – 0.79 mm in width and packaging them in various batch counts, was not only adding to labour costs, but also proving unreliable in the highly competitive automotive sector. A far more reliable answer came in the form of a custom machine vision solution from Teledyne DALSA. Case Study by Steve Zhu.
Pundits predict that India’s automotive sector will emerge as the world’s third-largest passenger-vehicle market in the next decade. One of the peripheral industries that supplies this burgeoning market is the piston and piston ring market — a market that owes its success mainly to the automotive industry and its demand for higher-powered engines. IP Rings, based in Chennai, India is a major player in the piston and piston ring market.
With the continued growth of the automotive industry, there is a constant search for new efficiencies and innovative ways to enhance the associated production, packaging and distribution processes. Piston rings are primarily used to seal the engine outlet thereby avoiding the leakage of gas during the combustion process.
One ring at a time
IP Rings manufactures piston rings for Tier 1 and Tier 2 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and it’s imperative that each batch meet the exact number of rings specified for installation in each vehicle. At the IP Rings manufacturing facility, manual inspection had been used for sorting, counting and packaging each batch of rings before shipping them to the customer, which was time consuming and labour intensive. Each batch contains 100 or more rings varying in size from a minimum width of 0.29 mm to a width of up to 0.79 mm. As the rings come off the production line they are counted and packaged as per specifications before being dispatched. Counting the precise number of rings is critical and avoids confusion during piston set assembly. Having extra rings remaining or fewer rings than specified at the end of assembly requires recounting the rings manually to ensure there aren’t any missing piston rings. While the customer hadn’t received a high number of complaints about product quality, IP Rings needed a more reliable system to decrease cycle time and lower production costs.
Choosing the right technology
With expertise in this manufacturing environment, Qualitas Technologies, a provider of industrial automation solutions in India, approached IP Rings about automating their production process by implementing a semi-automatic machine tailored to handle their ring counting process. Qualitas has successfully used machine vision technology as an answer for automation streamlining for its clients, and they were able to demonstrate how vision technology could help IP Rings improve efficiency, lower overhead costs, and increase ROI. After learning about the benefits of vision technology, IP Rings was ready to work with Qualitas to automate their production process. For this application, Qualitas designed a vision system using Teledyne DALSA’s Sherlock machine vision software configured to a single camera solution, with a red light for illumination.
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