Manufacturing high-quality parts is no longer the only measurement of success for Tier 1 automotive suppliers. Reliable part traceability—from preassembly until the end of its wear life—is equally important.

To meet this latter challenge, Messkirch, Germany-based Alber Gussbearbeitungs GmbH recently added two In-Sight smart cameras to its fully automated disc brake finishing and sound testing process. One camera helps a robot locate and lift brakes off a conveyor. The other reads alphanumeric codes on the brakes and helps the robot properly place the discs in a stainless steel box for delivery.

Alber automated the process in late 2013 to increase worker safety and productivity. Previously, workers manually lifted the heavy discs (26.5 to 44 pounds each) out of stainless steel boxes and placed them at different workstations.

The company collaborated with CNC Automation Wurfel GmbH to develop the automated process. Image-processing experts at i-mation GmbH integrated the In-Sight cameras, which are made by Cognex Corp. and offer automatic focus, quick image acquisition and built-in lighting.

One camera is installed on the magnetic gripper of a Yaskawa Motoman MH50-35 robot. As disc brakes are brought into the workstation on a conveyor, the camera transmits location data of each brake to the robot controller. In turn, the gripper grips the brake, and the robot arm lifts and places it on a rotary device.

A red LED light illuminates the brake as it rotates to highlight its embossed alphanumeric characters. Another camera takes an image of the characters and sends it to the robot controller for analysis. The controller tells the robot which box to place each brake into after finishing and sound testing. The robot stacks brakes six high in the box and places a wood cover on top.

Alber relies on OCRMax image processing and the VisionView operator interface to enhance camera reliability and performance. OCRMax is a font-trainable tool that reliably recognizes and verifies various types of embossed characters. Its powerful algorithm prevents misreads and allows fast and easy set up with minimal training.

VisionView enables an operator to monitor and control cameras on the factory floor from a PC. It displays images in real time, and can monitor up to 12 In-Sight vision systems in a tiled view. VisionView also lets users create and access a CustomView spreadsheet that displays system indicator lights and buttons, data entries, trend charts and message boxes.

For more information on vision systems, call 508-650-3000 or visit