Mobile Inspection System for Use in Flexible Production
- The optical inspection system APAS inspector belongs to a product family of flexible, mobile automation devices that enable close and direct cooperation between humans and machines.
- APAS mobile production assistants come with connectivity options that allow them to be employed anywhere, either on their own or in combination, thus supporting flexible production.
At the international trade fair Vision 2016, Bosch presents the mobile inspection system APAS inspector. The optical inspection system belongs to a product family of flexible, mobile automatization devices that enable close and direct cooperation between humans and machines. Thanks to its variable inspection modules, the APAS inspector can be used for the inspection of matt or glossy surfaces, for completeness checks, as well as micro-crack and dimensional inspection. The system’s 3D imaging technology ensures reliable and highly precise inspection results, even in rough production environments. Furthermore, its learning vision enables the system to continuously improve the inspection parameters.
“The factory of the future requires concepts in which humans and machines work hand in hand, and where machines support humans in their work,” says Wolfgang Pomrehn, product manager of the APAS family. “This also applies for quality control of small to medium batch sizes. While developing the APAS inspector, we benefitted from the long-term experience of Bosch in image processing. At the same time, the APAS family serves as basis for the application of robot-based solutions in flexible manufacturing and in direct cooperation of machines and humans.”
Continuously improved inspection performance
The inspection system consists of a flexible platform with a planar stage, a high-resolution high-speed camera and a touchpad. One or two independent workpiece carriers are loaded with the test items either manually or automatically. The test items are then transported to one or more imaging positions. The touch pad enables intuitive operation, while advanced 3D imaging technology delivers precise and reliable results, even under typical production conditions.
Furthermore, the learning vision technology can use training images to separate test items, for instance into “good” and “reject” parts. The employee uses the APAS inspector to take pictures of several test items, and marks the “good” and “reject” areas of the sample. The system then analyzes and records this information for future inspections.
The inspection system can be retrained at any time using additional images. This enables the operator to continually improve the recognition abilities of the APAS inspector, or to adapt it to new conditions. Even the number of classes and characteristics, which are used to classify the test items, can be individually selected and subsequently changed for each inspection task.
People and machines work closer and closer together
“In flexible production systems, people and machines are working closer and closer together,” Pomrehn says. “Thanks to the learning vision, even an inexperienced employee can ‘show’ the system the relevant characteristics required to ensure reliable inspection. We have taught the machines how to translate human thoughts, offering employees significant support.”
During the development of the APAS inspector, special emphasis was placed on the possibility of exchanging the inspection modules. This makes it possible to conduct new inspection tasks more easily and within a short period of time. Whether it is used as mobile equipment or as part of an agile manufacturing island together with other members of the APAS family – the APAS inspector can be flexibly applied and is able to communicate with other production assistants and equipment. Behind the scenes, the Bosch IT Shopfloor Solutions enable this communication and make it possible to connect machines regardless of product or brand.