The concept for a new automated visual inspection system that uses robotics to manipulate metallic components is being tested at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

Harry Burroughes with Jean-François DuPont and Phillippe Masson of AV&R at the AMRC Factory 2050 where the automated visual inspection system is installed. (Credit: AMRC)

Canadian automation, machine vision, and robotics solutions specialist company AV&R is working with AMRC to develop the new system in a simulated industrial environment, proving out the technology and de-risking any potential investment for end users.

The AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group (IMG) will be conducting trials of the AV&R system, which is now deployed at Factory 2050 thanks to funding from High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a network of innovation centers in the UK.

Automated visual inspection refers to the automating of the detection and classification of defects using robotics for high-value complex metallic components used in industries such as medical.

“Visual quality inspection processes are vital in industrial sectors such as aerospace and medical, where the assurance of high-quality is essential for a complex component to meet expected performance levels,” says IMG senior project engineer, Harry Burroughes.

The AV&R system uses a robot to handle a component, which is lit from various angles, and rotates it in front of a camera so the system can acquire photometric data about the component surface.

The AV&R system uses a robot to handle a component lit from various angles and rotates it in front of a camera so that the system can acquire photometric data about the component surface. (Credit: AMRC)

AMRC engineers are configuring the system to collect significant data about AV&R’s testing process to optimize the setup so that the system can be used for bespoke inspection processes and be verified for use on multiple components across various industrial sectors. The team will also create a ‘digital twin’ that will assist operators and aid remote assistance for preventative maintenance.

Philippe Masson, strategic partnerships manager of AV&R Aerospace, says, “Our new capability of inspecting different type of parts was the catalyst for discussions with the AMRC about future automated visual inspection tests which could be performed on high-value components. Together, we are exploring latest technologies for a human operator to review the machine’s results with augmented reality.”

Harry Burroughes, who is working on the project for AV&R, says, “Through our trials of the system, we will processes various configurations of photometric data, which will be translated and presented to the user of the system through various digital representations for user-friendliness.”

“The development of this system will make quality testing more efficient, more repeatable and allow manufacturers to increase their testing capacity, speeding up the overall manufacturing process for complex components.

“The project will allow the AMRC to extend our research and increase our capability for advanced visual inspection techniques for complex components used in many high-value manufacturing sectors,” he adds.

AV&R says it is “keen to stay ahead of the curve” when it comes to the development of new technologies and achieves this by investing in research and development by partnering with research centers.

“What is interesting about the AMRC is that as a member we have access to their networks and industrial contacts. This means we will be able to work together to understand how our system can be developed to best serve the requirements of inspection processes in other industrial sectors,” Masson says.

“The work we do with the AMRC will allow us to gain valuable feedback and data from the use of the system to inform and share with our customers on the reliability and performance. It will be a valuable benefit to be able to disseminate information backed by a world-renowned organization, one with a well-known reputation.”

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