Sunningdale Precision Industries Ltd is an example of a home-grown Singapore plastics manufacturer, with core capabilities in plastic mould design, mould-making, and injection moulding of plastic parts for the telecommunications, computer peripherals and automotive industries. The company's investment into two colour auto spraying and YAG Laser Process for automotive components, car audio and telecommunication products has transformed Sunningdale into one of Asia's leading high-tech plastic manufacturers.
One of Sunningdale's main customers is the Ford Motor Company - Sunningdale produces panels for hi-fi and air-conditioning control units assembled in Ford automobiles. When Ford's CEO Jacques Nasser stirred the company towards Six Sigma quality and a lean business model with low inventory, Sunningdale was required to 100% visually inspect every panel that was sent to Ford factories around the world. Before Ford's new demand, inspection was carried out manually. Due to similarities between different control panels for different automobile models, panels with misplaced or wrongly labelled buttons occasionally managed to go undetected and slip through the human inspection process. These errors, although seemingly minor, do unfortunately have the potential to escalate to catastrophic proportions with automobiles having to be recalled to have their panels replaced.
Having decided to fully automate the quality inspection process, Neurotech was approached to design a machine vision solution. Sunningdale required the system to verify that the panels were correctly assembled with the right buttons in the right places. At the same time, they also wanted the system to be able to check for the quality of the laser-etched characters and graphics on the panel. As they often run two different product lines simultaneously, they required the system to be able to handle the inspection of at least two different models of control panels at the same time. Sunningdale also required the system to be easily programmable to accommodate to changes in panel design. They also wanted a system that could be quickly and easily deployed to other production lines when it was necessary.
In its design, Neurotech selected NeuroCheck as the underlying development platform for the vision inspection system because of its wide array of powerful inspection functions and its easy-to-use, point-and-click environment. Due to the length of the control panels, images were captured using two cameras each. All in all, four cameras were hooked up to the system to allow for simultaneous inspection along two production lines. Audio and visual alarms were integrated to both production lines to sound off the respective operator when a discrepancy was detected. With the use of a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), control of the entire vision system was handled in real-time.
In less than six weeks, Neurotech delivered a complete rack-mount vision solution and had it integrated into Sunningdale's existing production lines. The delivered system met all the previously agreed upon requirements. With training by our technical staff, Sunningdale's operators and engineers with no prior machine vision experience were able to operate and program the provided system. The number of delivered panels with misplaced or wrongly labelled buttons was immediately reduced to zero. Today, false alarms account for less than 1% of the total number of panels inspected by our system. Before it was deployed, there had been no certainty in the inspection process and occasionally, whole cartons of packed panels had to be rechecked before they were delivered. We are pleased to have increased Sunningdale's productivity in producing and delivering panels for the automobile industry.