Textron Inc. is now seeking licensing agreements for its latest surface-contamination detection system that enables accurate, automated, inline inspection of metallic and composite panels prior to bonding, coating, painting or welding operations. It says that the technology is currently used for real-time, in-process panel inspection at a leading U.S. aircraft manufacturer, where detecting surface contamination before subsequent operations has resulted in lower scrap and rework cost and improved customer satisfaction. The technology is transferable to any application where surface contamination of metal or composite panels is undesirable, necessitating the need for in-process inspection. According to the company, some of the benefits of its technology include:
- Infrared imaging: Infrared imaging of a part using a mid-wavelength camera (7–14 micron) after a rinse operation clearly reveals contaminated surfaces as low-emissivity (light) areas, and clean surfaces as high-emissivity (dark) areas. The images can be captured by the camera(s) within the processing line, but evaluated away from the undesirable conditions that may be present in the line. A sample image taken of a sheet of metal is shown below:
- Automated multiple camera system: Using multiple cameras enables the desired line throughput that may not be achievable with a single camera having to image the entire part surface(s). Each camera of the system automatically pans and tilts to cover the entire area of interest, and the images are integrated into a composite mosaic of the entire part.
- Warping and de-skewing imaging methods: Pre-processing of the images prior to evaluation enables accurate image representation and defect measurement.
- Automated image evaluation: Automated evaluation methods can be utilized with digital images of the parts to enable real-time, objective, error-free screening.
Textron notes that alternate methods for inspecting surface cleanliness are often destructive, very time-consuming or done on a sampling basis. The patented method and apparatus for surface-contamination detection overcomes all of these deficiencies of existing methods. Textron says that its technology makes 100% surface inspection feasible for high-throughput processing lines, enabling reduction in scrap/rework and improved quality to the customer.
All aspects of its technology have been fully developed and implemented in a production line, the company notes. Replication of its method and apparatus to a different production line will require some line-specific setup and training which could be facilitated through a consulting agreement in conjunction with a patent and technology license, and those interested should contact Robert Pascal of Textron Innovations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Yet2.com. "Automated, In-process Method for Surface Contamination Inspection of Panels." Retrieved June 14, 2007 from www.yet2.com.