Vision systems ensure speed and accuracy in the automotive industry

“Our main goal is to automate the tedious task of counting piston rings with the help of a highly accurate vision system, thereby reducing cycle times and improving accuracy,” says Arabatti. “Reducing the effects of ambient light is a huge Challenge. We used a custom fixture to solve this problem. Diffuse red light was used to illuminate piston rings of various sizes and textures.”

Manually counting piston rings (as small as 0.29-0.79mm in width) and packing different batches not only increases labor costs, but also proves unreliable in the highly competitive automotive industry. Customized machine vision solutions bring you more reliable solutions.

Authorities predict that the Indian auto industry will become the third largest passenger car market in the world in the next decade. Pistons and piston ring products, one of the peripheral industries supplying this emerging market – the success of this product market is mainly due to the development of the automotive industry and the need for higher power engines. IP Rings, based in Chennai, India, is a major player in the piston and piston rings market.

As the automotive industry continues to evolve, there is a constant search for new efficient and innovative ways to improve the associated production, packaging and distribution processes. Piston rings are mainly used to seal the engine outlet to avoid gas leakage during combustion.

one ring at a time

IP Rings manufactures piston rings for Tier 1 and Tier 2 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), so each batch must meet the exact number of mounting rings specified per vehicle. The IP Rings manufacturing facility uses manual inspection methods to sort, count and pack each batch of piston rings before shipping them to customers, which is time-consuming and laborious. Each batch contains 100 or more piston rings, ranging in size from a minimum of 0.29mm (width) to a maximum of 0.79mm. As piston rings come off the production line, they are counted and packaged to specification before shipment. Accurately counting the number of piston rings is critical as this avoids confusion during piston assembly assembly. If more or less than the specified number of piston rings are left at the end of the assembly, the number of piston rings will need to be manually recalculated to ensure that no rings are missing. While customers are currently not receiving numerous complaints about product quality, IP Rings needs to build a more reliable system to shorten production cycle times and reduce production costs.

Choose the right technical solution

With expertise in this manufacturing environment, Indian industrial automation solutions provider Qualitas Technologies approached IP Rings to automate its production process by employing a semi-automatic machine to handle the piston ring counting process. Qualitas has successfully used machine vision technology as a streamlined solution for their customers, and they were able to demonstrate how vision technology can help IP Rings increase efficiency, reduce overhead costs and improve return on investment (ROI). Knowing the benefits of vision technology, IP Rings was ready to partner with Qualitas to automate its production process. For this application, Qualitas designed a vision system using Teledyne DALSA’s Sherlock machine vision software, configured as a single-camera solution with red-light lighting.

Vision systems ensure speed and accuracy in the automotive industry
3D rendering illustration of a piston ring counter

Vision systems ensure speed and accuracy in the automotive industry
real photo of the device

Sherlock Solutions

“Our experience with Teledyne DALSA solutions made us an ideal partner for this application,” said Vinay Arabatti, Solutions Architect at Qualitas Technology. “Sherlock’s vision tools are able to identify small changes in the piston rings that could alter the final counting process. ensure a high degree of accuracy.”

To perform this inspection, an operator loads a batch of piston rings onto a fixture designed specifically for the application, then triggers a camera to take an image of the rings. The camera was positioned vertically and captured images at a resolution of 2592×1944, covering a field of view of 145mm. The red diffuser light is installed at a 45° angle to obtain a suitable lighting area and avoid the influence of ambient light. Equipped with two stoppers, one fixed and one movable, to hold the piston ring within a given inspection area, Teledyne DALSA’s Sherlock software “counts” the piston ring by tracking the edges. Sherlock’s powerful edge counting tool is able to identify subtle differences, such as larger-than-expected gaps between piston rings, or impurities on the rings that change the shape of the rings. For edges that appear to be missing, Sherlock generates a warning and highlights the problem so operators can verify the count and adjust the stack to fix the problem.

“Our main goal is to automate the tedious task of counting piston rings with the help of a highly accurate vision system, thereby reducing cycle times and improving accuracy,” says Arabatti. “Reducing the effects of ambient light is a huge Challenge. We used a custom fixture to solve this problem. Diffuse red light was used to illuminate piston rings of various sizes and textures.”

To complete the application, Qualitas developed a fully customized user interface for the packaging and shipping process using Sherlock’s advanced imaging capabilities and extensive software development library. Sherlock can be easily integrated into industrial PCs to share images and report statistics. The operator first selects a specific model name and a predefined number of piston rings for a follow-up inspection. Depending on the model name selected, the solution is loaded into the Sherlock of the photographed image; then processed for analysis; the result is displayed as “Pass” or “Fail”. “Qualified” batches are sent packaged and shipped to the end customer. Cloud-based image storage gives operators easy access to monitor inspection results and overall performance to adjust inspection parameters as needed.

Vision systems ensure speed and accuracy in the automotive industry
Sherlock’s vision software “counts” piston rings by tracking edges and alerts you when problems are detected

IP Rings’ piston ring counting machine has been in operation for several months. Manual counting of more than 100 piston rings that previously took 5 minutes to complete now takes just 10 seconds, including the time it takes to feed the rings into the fixture, and the company is currently planning to deploy more of these inspection equipment to Improve efficiency.
IP Rings is pleased with the new low-maintenance vision system and Sherlock software that have greatly increased the productivity of the piston ring counting process, saving time and increasing the accuracy of overall production efficiency.

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