General Industries

The Role of Cameras in Revolutionizing Manufacturing Processes

July 10, 2023

Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

As the manufacturing sector becomes increasingly complex, new technologies are required to meet its many challenges.

Since the time of the industrial revolution, skilled workers have been supplemented with systems and machines. Where historically adherence to a process would have fallen primarily to the worker, the last two decades have seen a significant shift away from preventing out-of-process activity through physical means, to doing so digitally. This is a trend that has not only penetrated the manufacturing industry, but one we can all see first-hand in daily life. As physical hardware can be a notable cause of failure, in addition to being difficult to modify and adapt, anything that can be done through software and potentially updated over the air can represent a major improvement. We need not look further than shifts by Apple to remove the physical button from the bottom of its iPhone, or Tesla removing climate and media controls in favour of a single touch screen.

Advantages of Camera-Based Object Tracking

In industry, one area currently experiencing a significant move to digitisation is object tracking using computer vision to replace older physical and mechanical controls. One example of this shift is traditional ‘pick-to-light’ systems; consider the cost and complexity associated with IO devices, wiring, lamps, sensors or buttons, all of which bringing their own mounting and installation of requirements. This overhead is substantially reduced by utilising a camera-based system and process control HMI.

Another area cameras offer value over traditional controls is positional tooling, a verification process that ensures bolts and screws are completed in the correct sequence. Previously, position-based tooling would have needed an encoder arm to verify the tool location, here a camera can be used instead, freeing up an operator to work unhindered by the movement and size constraints associated with an arm-mounted tool.

These are just two of the many examples offering a clear picture of where camera-based solutions can reduce the cost and complexity of common manufacturing applications.

Reliability of Infrared (IR) Tag-Based Systems

Despite the many advantages camera-based object tracking brings, it hasn’t always been obvious the technology has a place in industry. After all, the reliability and accuracy requirements of high volume and/or precision manufacturing are paramount. Furthermore, questions around privacy and GDPR are rightly raised when it comes to protecting employees’ welfare and rights.

In contrast to some of the early attempts to make the technology commercially viable, infrared (IR) ‘tag’ based systems have proven themselves dependable and accurate in the field, whilst also bringing advantages not possible with other ‘object recognition’ style systems. Utilising an infrared camera to monitor a series of IR LEDs means the privacy risk to a worker can be fully removed as the camera only sees LEDs, nothing more. The overall accuracy and reliability is greatly improved. Plus, with the system only having to track one type of object (the tag, or tags, depending on requirement), programming can be done faster and more efficiently.

The Human Touch in Manufacturing

In an era where much press is dedicated to furthering automation, there remains a significant need for humans in the manufacturing process. The collaboration between humans and technical systems allows each to focus only on tasks where the most value can be brought, providing ways to achieve maximum flexibility and efficiency. Despite a high proportion of automation, manual assembly and commissioning remain an integral part of production and logistics.

Camera-based IR tag tracking helps workers with:

  • Error-proofing repetitive tasks.
  • Completing complex tasks that are rarely performed.
  • Highly dynamic processes and their associated manufacturing instructions, such as picking.
  • Keeping operators fully trained, even during staff changes.

This is achieved through:

  • Clear instructions through industrial HMI.
  • Automatic signalling of position achievement to higher-level systems, meaning no additional acknowledgement required from operators.
  • A biofeedback option for process steps carried out OK/NOK.
  • Automatic communication with the ERP system or control point.

Desoutter’s Nexonar: A Game-Changer in Object Tracking

  • 16 tags can be tracked simultaneously with just one camera.
  • Capable of mm precision.
  • No requirement for annual calibration.
  • No faults forward assembly using wireless tracking solutions.
  • Any object tracking, tags available with built-in batteries.
  • Compatible with any tool and all insulated Desoutter tools.
  • An accessory to enhance existing shopfloor tooling.
  • Improved quality in assembly throughputs.
  • Market leading ultra-high-speed camera, 163 Hz real-time tracking with zero buffer.
  • Easy installation, intuitive user interface and ongoing flexible adjustments.
  • Visualized process software.
  • MTM tracking software with an open interface for integration into existing systems.

Book a Live Demonstration of Desoutter’s Nexonar

See for yourself how this revolutionary product can make a difference to your production environment now, and as it changes in the future.