Case Study: Using Inspection Systems to Help Save a Billion-Dollar Industry
Retreading (the process whereby selected and inspected worn tires, called "casings,” receive a new tread) is recommended and widespread – with over $3 billion in retread tires sold annually in North America. Only sound, carefully inspected tire casings are used for retreading. The challenge, though, for many of the 850 retread plants in North America is that systems for inspecting casings are becoming outdated, and quality inspections are becoming more challenging. This could pose a significant problem – and potentially a safety and liability issue – for the billion-dollar retread industry. The good news is that a solution is available, thanks to G2 Technologies, an industry-leading provider of automated inspection and test solutions, and Teledyne DALSA, an international leader in high performance digital imaging and semiconductors.
When one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers realized one of its inspection systems used for checking tires at its retread facilities was failing, it came to G2 Technologies for help. The tire manufacturer’s aging cameras were not working properly, and replacements were no longer commercially available. This was a significant problem because it’s essential for professional retreaders to adhere to stringent industry standards at each step of the retreading process. Most retread plants in North America and elsewhere are affiliated with major manufacturers who provide technical assistance and requirements to ensure a reliable product is produced. Machine vision systems are an essential part of the process. Tires need to be checked before they are retreaded to make sure they are worth the investment, and then checked during the process to ensure that the retread is done correctly.
Large commercial tires are not ideal imaging subjects. They are dark, thick, and are typically imaged under imperfect conditions. Checking to see if each tire casing is damaged, or defective in some way, is not an easy task. Defects and tire layer separations exist on the millimeter level. What’s more, there is limited space inside a tire, even a commercial tire, and that leaves very little room left for a camera. Full size cameras, even when they do fit, require very tight tolerances to make sure there is no damage to the systems. Clearly a smaller camera was required, but one that didn’t compromise on performance, in terms of resolution or speed. Otherwise, all potential efficiency gains would be lost.
G2 Technologies’ solution was to upgrade the inspection system with the Teledyne DALSA Genie Nano camera, providing improved performance in a smaller form factor.
The upgraded system produced significant advantages with the new camera. Better resolution meant that the operators who checked the images manually, could do so more accurately and with much more ease. The higher resolution offered much better coverage (10 times the number of pixels per defect) of even the smallest defects, and even allowed the operator to zoom in on relevant parts of the total image.
“We were delighted to help our tire manufacturing client find a solution in an upgraded system rather than a replacement,” said Craig Borsack, president of G2 Technologies. “It’s extremely gratifying to see the company utilizing the new higher resolution camera and enhancing their performance – while maximizing uptime, and keeping costs down.” The cost of upgrading the system was a mere 10 percent of the cost of developing a whole new solution.
What’s more, the upgraded system offers improved reliability. “The fact that a single GigE cable could deliver the Genie Nano’s data feed and power meant that the risk of failure was much lower,” Borsack said. “This is good news as exposed cable is one of the biggest reliability issues for systems.”
Turning the Solution into A Turnkey Kit
Last but not least, G2 helped its client design a turnkey kit so that the upgraded inspection system could be implemented easily at each of its North American sites. The turnkey kit for each retread site included the new camera, ancillary components, and installation instructions. “This was a cost-effective solution that we developed to meet the client’s budget and timeline,” Borsack said. “It’s worked beautifully, as sites are able to do the upgrade on their own at a time that works with their schedules.”
What could this mean for other tire retread manufacturers, many of whom could be facing outdated systems themselves? With an upgraded inspection system that costs 10 percent of a new system, minimal disruption to manufacturing, and a turnkey kit for implementing across manufacturing sites, this could be good news indeed.