Machine vision in the automotive industry

Increased complexity in today's automobiles brings the potential for greater production errors, but automobile manufacturers can ill afford such errors in a highly competitive market. To achieve the quality that customers demand, manufacturers and their suppliers are increasingly relying on a highly effective approach to preventing defects at multiple stages of production. That approach utilises machine vision.

In the automotive industry, machine vision (MV) is used in a range of applications primarily involving inspections and robotic guidance. Using embedded vision sensors to find objects in 2 or 3-dimensional space and adjust paths for the positions of the objects, robots utilize machine vision for far greater accuracy in critical activities, including auto racking (picking parts out of racks), bin picking and the positioning of parts (such as doors and panels) for assembly.

MV systems also efficiently perform various types of inspections, determining essentially whether the sundry items comprising an automobile pass muster and rejecting those that do not. This includes surface inspection for cosmetic flaws (such as dings, dents and wrinkles in body panels) as well as detection of functional flaws (such as irregularities on the bearing surfaces of automotive rocker arms or the correct spacing and size of mounting holes on disk brake pads). Machine vision systems also verify the presence (or absence) of parts and the correctness of their shapes (such as in the case of gears, which can have missing or malformed teeth). Finally, machine vision inspections for assembly verification insure error-free assembly (such as with closure panels that include doors, hoods, lift gates and tail gates).



MV systems also perform parts recognition . For example, they can read treads of different makes and types of tires and direct their correct routing by conveyor belt to designated vehicles. MV systems can also perform parts recognition via OCR functions where printed labels have been attached to parts. 
Machine vision moreover enables dimensional gauging of precision machined components (such as fasteners, transmissions and other sub-assemblies). In so doing, MV systems insure that only parts falling within the correct tolerances find their way to into vehicles departing the assembly line.

- Sudhir Bachloo