NASCAR employs a standardized “spec engine” for its Camping World East and West series. The engines include many off-the-shelf parts, providing racing teams with performance and durability at about half the cost of an entirely custom-built engine.

Each of the major parts in the new motor has a 2D bar code that can be read in seconds by a handheld scanner, greatly reducing inspection time at the track. These marks must be positioned in specific, often difficult-to-mark locations so that officials can easily check the parts either before of after a race to prevent cheating.

To ensure its parts are correctly marked, Wegner Motorsports, which manufactures both spec kits and assembled engines, uses a three-in-one marking system from Columbia Marking Tools. The system produces 2D bar codes using either a dot peen, scribe or laser marker, so it can be used on any surface.

Wegner Motorsports has also implemented an In-Sight 5100 machine-vision camera from Cognex Corp. to instantly grade each mark once it has been made to verify it will be easy to read during racetrack inspections.

“There are a number of vision companies, but we always recommend Cognex vision sensors, because they have the best technology for reading 2D bar codes,” says Columbia Marking Tools vice president Andy Russin. “NASCAR made the same decision by selecting Cognex handheld scanners for reading spec engine bar codes. Cognex’s In-Sight Explorer software also provides more options for reading a 2D bar code and makes it easier to develop a vision application.”

In operation, the In-Sight 5100 vision sensor acquires up to 60 full frames per second while generating 8-bit images. It includes a die-cast aluminum housing and sealed industrial M12 connectors that eliminate the need for any kind of additional enclosure hardware.

The system’s In-Sight SDK software allows developers to seamlessly integrate In-Sight images, graphics and data into a custom program so that it will focus on a customer’s particular needs, all the while preserving the look and feel of a custom interface.

“The new marking machine and vision system have worked beautifully,” says Wegner Motorsports general manager Dan Timm. “We got the marking machine up and running within four hours of unloading it off the truck. Having three different marking options makes it possible to produce a readable mark on the most difficult applications. We find that we use the scribe method on the majority of our parts, the dot peen method on very hard parts and laser marking on a few specialized applications, such as valves.”

Timm adds that the vision system has also proved to be robust and easy to use.

“The Cognex In-Sight vision sensors built into the marking system reliably grade the 2D bar code marks, which ensures that they can be read in the race environment,” he says. “I was amazed the vision system could read the mark with only simple LED lighting and without special shrouding. When we are putting the parts together into kits, we scan the parts again using the…same model used by the NASCAR inspectors. This tells us exactly which part has gone into which kit, which makes it possible later to trace its history if necessary.”

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