Quality Innovations: Sentry Solves Problems
June 29, 2007
When customers demand certain capabilities, smart companies respond. Visicon Inspection Technologies (Napa, CA) listened to customer requests, and responded with the Sentry, an alternative to optical comparators or profile projectors.
“We had requests from different customers,” says Scott Webber, director of sales and marketing at Visicon Inspection Technologies. “They would say, ‘It would be great if we could do this. We don’t need this extra X and Y motion for our parts. We just need to be able to take an image of them and inspect them.’”
The Sentry is a digital photo stand with a 16-megapixel camera using telecentric lenses and capturing images of parts up to a size of 4 inches. Parts are measured and defects found using software-based pattern recognition and image processing per the customer’s specific requirements.
On the manufacturing floor or in a quality control laboratory, the Sentry can take critical measurements or perform defect detection on medical devices, electronic components or other small parts. It is ideal for the inspection of multi-lumen tubing, IC packaging, or surgical staples and clips.
“High-precision, small parts is where it really pulls its weight,” says Webber. The product has been so well received that the company is currently working on a scanning version of the Sentry.
“The fact that you can take a digital picture of multiple small parts in any random orientation without a fixture-and analyze the complete picture all at once is the main advantage. It allows operators to inspect multiple areas of multiple parts all at once, without having to fixture them, in seconds,” Webber says. “We’ve seen customers save up to 20 to 50X in throughput.”
A previously time-intensive inspection process now can be done in 5 seconds, he says. The product was developed for lower-cost, higher-speed inspection. Its main competition is an optical comparator or video measuring machine. “It is slightly more expensive than a typical optical comparator, but slightly less than a three-axis video measuring machine,” Webber says.
The high-end version of the Sentry uses a 16-megapixel camera-many options are available, from 1 to 16 megapixels-multiple lenses and an increased field of view. “Price goes up with larger cameras,” Webber says. “Depending on what precision you need, we can fit the appropriate camera and lens to it.”
The Sentry’s array format is 3,500 by 2,300 pixels, with a 35 by 23 millimeter actual sensor size for one of the more commonly used of its cameras. It has lenses that span a magnification range of 0.3 up to 10X, allowing the machine to handle a range of part sizes from 3.5 by 2.3 millimeters with 0.3 micron precision, up to 117 by 77 millimeters with an 8.3 micron precision.
“Customers like the time savings, the size of it and the cost savings,” Webber says. “A lot of companies that would be buying this are using a comparator to toolscope for manual dimensional inspection or stereo microscopes and a person to inspect for visual defects. Now that person is able to inspect many, many parts in much less time.”
The product is not perfect, however. One disadvantage is the size of the part that it can take, which is limited to 4 inches by 3 inches. The scanning version will address this, but is currently “a good six months away,” Webber says.
The cost ranges from $35,000 to $65,000, based on camera size and the custom parts added. Customers will need to choose a type of system based on the tolerance of the part they are inspecting, and generally they are aware of what their application requires.
“People know what they’re going to have to pay,” Webber says. The larger the field-of-view and the tighter the part tolerance, the higher the cost.
The instrument also uses the same Fine Fit software as Visicon’s Fine Scan product, which has been on the market for six years. Because of this, the company has a great deal of experience with the software. The Sentry provides everything in one package with integrated software and inspection hardware.
- The Sentry is a digital photo stand with a 16-megapixel camera using telecentric lenses and capturing images of parts up to a size of inches.
- Parts are measured and defects found using software-based pattern recognition and image processing per the customer’s specific requirements.
- On the manufacturing floor or in the quality control lab, Sentry can take critical measurements or perform defect detection on medical devices, electronic components or other small parts.
Technology ContactFor more information on the Sentry, contact:
- Visicon Inspection Technologies
Scott Webber, dir. sales and marketing
871 Latour Ct. Napa, CA 94558