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Using 3D Smart Sensors to Improve Inspection

Inspection has been one of the most prominent applications of machine vision since the advent of the field. Getting their start in automotive and then spreading to all levels of industry, automated inspection equipment has vastly increased the quality of manufactured products all around the world.

For most of the modern era, 2D imaging has been used in the lion’s share of inspections. Although the benefits of 3D imaging were well understood in theory, technology took some time to emerge. Even once 3D capabilities became available, they were not always cost-effective.

Enter the modern 3D smart sensor.

3D Sensor Technology Takes Its Place in the Engineering Toolkit

Although 2D sensor technology is versatile and efficient, it is not appropriate for all kinds of inspection tasks. In situations where threaded components are used, the operating environment can be too complex for the average 2D sensor technology to navigate effectively.

3D smart sensors are ideal for non-contact inspection – making them useful not only in standard manufacturing environments but food, medical, and much more. They offer robust scanning, measurement, and quality control functionality in three main areas:

  • Positional, dimensional, and other advanced verification tasks complicated in 2D;
  • Volume optimization for breakdown of a wide range of materials, such as wood;
  • Detailed characterization of a variety of surface materials and material textures.

Operational Benefits of 3D Smart Sensors in the Work Environment

Where 3D technology is not available, standard solutions call for the 2D inspection device to take and process multiple 2D images. This can significantly increase the overhead in inspection processes and may introduce additional points of failure into operations.

By contrast, 3D smart sensors offer significant advantages:

Reduced Complexity of Imaging Systems
3D smart sensors are designed to seamlessly replace multiple legacy inspection devices. They are developed with a full, on-board quality control toolkit. This includes the user interface, setup, measurement tools, and all required communication.

Native Real-Time Data Processing
Although the manufacturing environment must function in real time, many 2D imaging systems face inherent processing bottlenecks that make it difficult to keep up. Instead of a standard Windows operating suite, 3D smart systems offer purpose-built, low-latency architecture.

Versatile Communications Compatibility
Full-scale automation and self-correcting operational optimization will soon be the reality for many manufacturing environments. In this scenario, high-fidelity data communication is key to success. 3D smart sensors offer built-in compatibility with multiple communications protocols.

Although it may be some time before 3D smart sensor technology truly supplants conventional 2D inspection tools, the case for its greater efficiency and performance is already established. As these systems become less costly to implement, the benefits are sure to lead to a reassessment of how even the most fundamental inspection tasks are handled.

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