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Intgrated manufacturing and production automation for the ceramic tile industry

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Improving ceramic tile production and consumer quality and costs

Over production and supply of a commodity, means suppliers have to offer serious competitive margins for meagre profits. To increase profit margins, manufacturers are required to improve quality whilst reducing manufacturing costs.

Industrial Technologies

This is the currently the scenario for the European ceramic tiles industry. Therefore with the two main sales objectives of price and quality, a German company decided to enhance quality whilst driving down production costs. Using an integrated intelligent information and control system, machine down time, process losses and energy consumption were considerably reduced. This was achieved by introducing three technical improvements; a flying spot scanner, a reliable network for handling all types of process data and a colour imaging system for complex surface analysis. The first of these inspects tile surfaces with a rotating multi-facet mirror and a large parabolic mirror with a diameter of 500mm. Capable of producing 2048x2048 pixel pseudo-colour images, it enables surface defects to be identified at non-specular angles, something which normal colour cameras cannot do. The second technical improvement can connect to any type of fieldbus that may already exist within the factory and incorporates an intelligent fieldbus card capable of many different protocols. As for the user interfaces, Java is used so it can run on any platform within the factory and is accessed by a web browser. This also means that each client computer does not need to have individual software installed, which means it is particularly advantageous. The colour imaging system measures planar objects using optimal characteristics for three input channels and expresses the resultant data in three single dimensional arrays of 256 numbers. The numbers express the surface colours and their relevant occurrences with high signal to noise ratios, and can be used for the analysis of very subtle colours. In addition with the correct hardware it is suitable for production use and with its new algorithm that enhances the colour contrast the results are predictable. All in all, the competitive ceramic tile industry has now forced one company to develop production quality systems that will enable European manufactures to be more competitive in the worldwide market. Such advantages are likely to be consumer driven because ceramic tiles produced in this manner will have a significant improvement in quality, colour enhancements and affordability.

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