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Quality and Production Control with Integrated Machine Vision

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - QualiLine-C-2.0 (Quality and Production Control with Integrated Machine Vision)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30

Our company, Falcon-Vision ZRt., was established in 1996 with the aim of developing machine vision tools for the inspection of any parts including casting for the automotive industry. During this time we have produced a number of custom inspection tools that can achieve 100% inspection without contact in real time. Our custom-made inspection machines have been a huge success and our overall sales have increased from 1.2 million Euros in 2009 to 3 million Euros in 2016 and we expect increase this year. Recently, our customers’ demand has been also widening. They are requiring faster, simpler and more flexible measuring machines besides shorter lead time. After discussions with our customers we have come to the conclusion that the best way to increase our productivity and satisfy more customers would be to make our system modular which would help the customer pick and choose the suitable standard modules in a flexible and efficient way. This would mean we can mass produce the modules which would speed up the service and reduce the price. In addition, development of new innovative modules is also foreseen to further improve the accuracy and to give the opportunity to inspect such geometries which were not possible in the past.

The main problem we addressed was the long design and manufacturing period and so a relatively high sale price for our inspections systems. In QualiLine-C-2.0 we take our services to the next level namely, we made our QualiLine system modular with added functions which reduce the time between order and delivery by 30% and reduce the cost of production also significantly and provides higher level of flexibility.

We also developed a pressure testing-based gas stream module for broken core inspection of casting. It allows the testing of channels for obstruction by identifying the pressure profile in channels which are not linear and light stream cannot get through. This resulted a unique new inspection method and so a prototype. The need for such module was evident as casts are becoming more and more complex and channels for the cooling liquid are becoming more intricate.
The overall objective of our project was to take our in-line inspection system for casting applications to the next level through making it modular. We created a special environment of the service development with an assistive software for configuring the existing and newly-developed modules of the system. This tool is available online now and it helps us and our customers to specify a custom made inspection system using standard units. With our new hardware modules and with the help of our software tool we are planning to increase our global market share of inspection tools by 30% in the next five years.

The real benefits for us and for our customers with the funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme was that our modular system design, our gas stream inspecting device and our configurator software were released to the market. Hence, we believe that our leading edge solution provided by QualiLine-C-2.0 is a solution that none of the competitors is providing. Main advantages of QualiLine-C-2.0 are:
- modularity,
- easy adoptability into a manufacturing process,
- the best fit modules can be selected, without non-relevant functions,
- the latest technical development results are available for upgrading the earlier investments,
- principles of the continuous improvement process can be applied,
- lifetime service in repair and development is provided,
- flexible solution with no compromise in quality and reliability.
Our project QualiLine-C-2.0 started the 1 May 2015 and finished 30 April 2017 keeping the planned schedule of the project. At the beginning, we were focusing on the finalization of our system specification to finalize our concept and validate it through our customers. We finalized the requirements of the modular system and the concepts of our new innovative modules, fitted to the actual market demands (e.g. one of the specified module was replaced during the project period). After this phase, we developed each component of the system, focusing on the modular planning and manufacturing methods. We designed, manufactured and tested all six specified modules and also the base modules of the new development. The pilot system, selected with our new online customer software, was installed in our workshop and is ready for technical demonstrations and marketing activities. Therefore, it can be stated that we successfully reached all technical objectives defined in our system specification.

Besides the technical work, our goals were to enhance our sales strategy, including all relevant fields and boost our communication activities. We had the opportunity to focus on our business development and analysed our market in details, such as deeper identification of customer needs, competition watch and better understanding of our product in the market. Consequently, we could extend our international partnerships, networks and achievements. In 2016 our main new market penetrations were the Chinese and British markets, meanwhile we widened our core partnerships. Based on our present purchase orders, for 2017 we foresee a considerable sales increase for our QualiLine-C-2.0.

We had stronger online media presence with three additional social media sites, new graphical elements (logo, icons, etc.) and a completely renewed website with search engine optimization. Online tools were backed with a PPC campaign which showed a great success to continue in the future. Further communication tools – both online and offline - were created and involved into our strategy in order to better reach our customers and increase visibility of our company and QualiLine-C-2.0 in an understandable way. We participated in several trade fairs showing our new concept and the project. These exhibitions were aided with new print materials.
QualiLine-C-2.0 is based on Need Seekers models meaning that we tended to engage our customers as well in the first part of the innovation process then developed to a product and a service addressing market needs and get them to the market first. QualiLine-C-2.0 is solving the problem of in-line inspection and non-contact quality control in order to validate the data for strict manufacturing regulations. With integrated modularization strategy, QualiLine-C-2.0 responds to the needs of growing manufacturers by giving the possibility to purchase the system continuously module by module. Modularization is unique in this market segment.

The development of automotive industry creates two types of demands: (1) effective production technology requires the fastest possible quality control processes and system that at the same time are able to (2) flexibly serve the needs derived from the technological changes and developments of the sector. The demand from end-users, especially the motorization needs coming from the Asian markets, is continuously increasing, urbanization is closely linked to mobilization, as a result of which demand towards motorization is also increasing. The product standardisation in one hand could help to fulfil customer needs quicker on a reasonable price. On the other hand, it gives the possibility to target new segments and new potential customers.
QualiLine-C-2.0: Electrical cabinets (inside)
QualiLine-C-2.0: Layout of the pilot machine
QualiLine-C-2.0: The pilot machine (outside)
QualiLine-C-2.0: The pilot machine (inside)
QualiLine-C-2.0: Electrical cabinets (outside)
QualiLine-C-2.0: 3D model of the pilot machine