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Shaina
by Shaina Warner on March 19, 2014
posted in Industry Trends
If you work in PCB assembly or electronics manufacturing environments, you’re probably already familiar with PCB “panels,” or multiple, identical PCBs arranged together in a grid. The process by which these grids are produced is appropriately called panelization, and there are key benefits to its practice.

Why Panelize?

When you get right down to it, PCB panelization is all about cutting costs and increasing assembly efficiency. If a manufacturer’s aim is to assemble several devices with identical PCBs, then it stands to reason that processing multiple PCBs at once rather than each PCB one at a time could have a positive impact on the bottom line. Panels can be loaded into an assembly line and run through SMT operations much faster than single boards alone, maximizing a manufacturer’s efficiency and yielding more PCBAs in exponentially less time.

So, panelization helps manufacturers do more with less (higher velocity). That’s great! But the risk with any time-saving benefit is that it may come at the expense of product or process integrity. As with any advanced system, great care must be taken to ensure that there are appropriate mechanisms in place to support it.

What’s the Problem?

Conscientious manufacturers know that the key to quality and efficient production is having a firm grip on production data. In electronics assembly, with so many parts in the mix, it’s critical to ensure that a reliable system is in place to log and track components so that you always know...
Jonathan
by Jonathan Ludlow on January 29, 2014
posted in Solutions & Applications

Can these codes be read by your scanners or readers? Or by your customers'?

Since barcode quality grading is becoming a hot topic – and believe me it is – here are eight things to remember when the topic turns to 1D or 2D code verification.
  1. Verification or Validation?
    The Two V’s mean very different things. In conversation, I have heard the terms “Verification” and “Validation” used interchangeably. In the world of auto ID and labeling, however, they mean very different things. Verification means grading a 1D or 2D code against a specific standard with the intention of predicting how easy it will be to read – or whether it will read at all. Validation means checking the format of the content of the code to see if the agreed formatting standard has been applied. Put simply Verification is Penmanship while Validation is Grammar and Content.

    The tips in this blog address verification (can it be read?), which is sometimes called grading.

  2. Keeping up with Standards: ANSI, ISO, and AIM.
    The thing to remember is that there is a single standard for 1D code grading – ISO 15416. It used to be called ANSI grading and use letter grades (A to F). Now ISO 15416 specifies that 1D barcode quality should be reported using number grades (4.0 to 0.0). Of course everybody still uses letter grades – old habits die hard. But in a true verification report for ISO 15416, numbers will always accompany letter grades...
Shaina
by Shaina Warner on December 18, 2013
posted in Industry Trends


Electronic devices like smart phones continue to evolve into more compact and capable machines. We rely on our devices to help us manage even more daily tasks, critical transactions, and personal information than ever before. Consumer electronics manufacturers are therefore under tight scrutiny for their ability to produce technology of the utmost quality for seamless integration into our lives. This also means that, to stay competitive, manufacturers must be capable of producing higher-quality products at even higher production speeds – that is, do it better and do it faster than anyone else. How do these companies maintain their competitive edge?

The route taken by most of the major players in the consumer electronics market is the complete automation of critical processes in their assembly and manufacturing lines. Using automated ID and inspection, each piece in an electronics device from the chip to the chassis can be automatically tagged and tracked to ensure...
Steve
by Steve Twaddle on December 16, 2013
posted in Solutions & Applications
The following blog explains how to load job files via Ethernet onto a Vision HAWK or Vision MINI smart camera running Visionscape®, without using the Visionscape Machine Vision Software. There are two reasons to do this:
  1. If you are loading many different jobs, too many than may fit into the flash memory of the camera, then loading one job directly into running memory makes sense.
  2. However, if you wish to load the camera with a finite number of jobs – such that job switching may be done with the “jobload” command – then loading the job directly into flash memory makes sense.
Loading AVZ files utilizes two communication types – Telnet and FTP. This blog describes the specific steps necessary to load your Visionscape job onto the Vision HAWK or Vision MINI using the Telnet and FTP preinstalled with Windows® 7.

To begin, you need to know the IP address of your Vision HAWK or Vision MINI and have network access to the camera. You’ll also need an archived vision job (AVZ) file, which can be created in AutoVISION™ or Visionscape FrontRunner software and saved to your PC before you get started. In this example, we’re using a Vision HAWK with IP address “192.168.0.10” with an archived vision job file named “test03.avz” saved to our PC in C:\Microscan\Vscape\Jobs.

In order to use Telnet on Windows 7, Telnet must first be enabled:
  1. Go to Start Menu > Control Panel
  2. Choose “Programs” from category view or “Programs and Features” from icon view
  3. From the left pane, click “Turn Windows features on or off.”
  4. Check the box next to “Telnet Client” to enable it...
Jonathan
by Jonathan Ludlow on October 15, 2013
posted in Solutions & Applications
[Whispering voice]

Pssst – do you want to do machine vision without having to buy Microscan’s fine and very reasonably-priced products? You can, you know. It takes a few steps but it can be done. Just listen along…

[Back to normal indoor voice]

The first step in most successful machine vision applications is an evaluation, which usually requires sample parts to be sent to an Applications Engineer at a Microscan Partner’s office or in Microscan’s Solutions Lab. The alternative is for Microscan or our partner to come out for a site visit with cameras and lights to perform an on-site evaluation. These steps are expensive in terms of both time and money, so the question arises: “Is it possible to get useful pictures of the parts or labels in question without shipping or travel?”

You may have noticed that most of us are carrying around a gadget with a built-in camera these days, which now has more pixels than a high-end machine vision camera and which can deliver images to e-mail inboxes anywhere in the known universe (except certain parts of the U.S. state of Maine, but that is another story).

You may have figured out by now that the topic I am addressing is how to:
  1. Take useful pictures of parts with your own handy smart phone camera;
  2. Transmit them to your e-mail inbox;
  3. Transform them into something that Microscan’s ESP®, AutoVISION™, or Visionscape® FrontRunner software can use for your evaluation.

Taking Pictures

Let us begin with the topic of taking pictures of parts with a smart phone (or other handy digital camera). The first thing to consider is how to frame your part. And, as with any important imaging task, the second, third, and fourth things to consider are how to light it...
Shaina
by Shaina Warner on October 8, 2013
posted in Product Development


There is not one perfect, turnkey automation solution to fit every manufacturer. With so many possible operations to automate, the procedure and tools required to implement or upgrade an automation system are almost always entirely unique from every system that has ever been implemented before. Engineering a complete automation system involves the synergy of several different technologies, from robotic equipment to smart cameras to PLCs. Automation engineers are regularly challenged to integrate tools with unique requirements, purchased from several different vendors, into a single, seamless solution. When it comes to machine vision integration, advanced knowledge of communication protocols and PLC brands – not to mention ample programming time – have historically been a necessary hurdle.

But, what if each tool in the automation system were pre-engineered to universally meet the requirements of the other tools in the system – even if the tools weren’t developed by the same manufacturer? For example, imagine adding this to your existing automation system...
Kirsi
by Kirsi Rolf on September 11, 2013
posted in Solutions & Applications
Case study: Ensuring DPM Code Readability on PCB Identifiers

Direct part mark (DPM) codes can be difficult for traditional imaging technology to read due to low contrast visibility of the symbol or inconsistency in the marking process. But Microscan’s QX Hawk flexible industrial imager is up for any DPM challenge.

ATC Automation, Microscan distributor in Ireland, recently tackled an especially demanding application to read DPM (direct part mark) codes on their customer’s miniature PCB identifier pads. ATC’s solution took advantage of the aggressive decode algorithms and integrated LED lights in Microscan’s QX Hawk imager, which was used to read the laser-etched 2D Data Matrix codes on identifier pads measuring just 2.80mm by 1.80mm. In addition to ensuring complete, reliable decodes for every pad, the imaging solution was able to read four codes within the imager’s field of view at once, arrange the read data into a specific sequential format with separators, and then send the codes in the correct sequence to a database on a central server. This was achieved using Microscan’s ESP® (Easy Setup Program) Software and the QX Hawk’s embedded Ethernet networking which enables high-speed communication between the QX Hawk and the server.
 

In its current implementation, the QX Hawk reads the Data Matrix etched on the customer’s identifier pads to double-check that each code is present, readable, that the data it contains is logged correctly. With this solution in place...
Robert
by Robert Andersson on September 4, 2013
posted in Solutions & Applications
In this blog, I’d like to present a machine vision solution inspired by a real Microscan customer application using the latest connectivity feature in our machine vision portfolio: Microscan Link.

Microscan Link, available in Microscan’s AutoVISION™ and Visionscape® machine vision software, is a simplified connectivity tool that allows us to communicate machine vision inspection parameter values between vision tools, between tools and outside systems (like a PLC or PC), or between inspection jobs within the machine vision software platform. In other words, Link enables the remote “set and get” of machine vision input and output across the automation system by way of common communication protocols – for example, Ethernet TCP/IP, EtherNet/IP, or Serial. With all components of a vision system connected via Microscan Link, we can effectively create an inspection network that can be commanded remotely and can run autonomously using pre-programmed inspection parameters.

Let’s look at how this technology was applied to a real application in the field. Broadly, our customer’s application required us to acquire and send data and triggers between smart cameras without the intervention of an external PC or workstation. By exchanging data directly via integrated machine vision software, our linked smart cameras were able to function independently as one unit. The result is a sort of daisy-chain topology using the Microscan Link framework and two Vision HAWK smart cameras connected via Ethernet.



Figure 1. Schematic representation of a simultaneous top-and-bottom PCB inspection using linked Vision HAWK smart cameras.

In the schematic shown above, two Vision HAWK C-mount smart cameras are performing simultaneous inspection tasks on a single PCB – one camera decodes a symbol on one side of the board and the other camera counts components on the other side. The cameras communicate the results of their individual inspection tasks to one another over Ethernet...
Steve
by Steve Twaddle on August 27, 2013
posted in Solutions & Applications
With the introduction of a feature called Microscan Link in AutoVISION™ 2.0/Visionscape® 6.0 machine vision software, we now have additional options for communicating with Microscan smart cameras. The purpose of Microscan Link is to allow input parameters to be set and for output parameters to be monitored remotely. Commands may be sent to a Vision HAWK or Vision MINI smart camera via Microscan Link to communicate parameter values between vision inspection tools, between tools and outside systems (like a PLC or PC), or between inspection jobs within the machine vision software platform. For example, Microscan Link allows for inspection results (such as pass/fail data) to be updated to an external system such as a PLC where logic can be set to trigger output indicators or reject mechanisms on a manufacturing line, among many other tasks. Another use of Microscan Link is to communicate parameters from one Vision HAWK to another using command syntax – in which case an external control system like a PLC would not be necessary.



Recently a Microscan customer needed to measure a part where the image would not fit into the field of view of one Vision HAWK camera. One solution uses two Vision HAWK cameras and Microscan Link to pass the information from one camera’s field of view to the other camera. To get the necessary measurement data, the customer has to measure between two points on the part. However, in this application one point appeared in one camera’s field of view, while the other point was visible in the other camera’s field of view...
Shaina
by Shaina Warner on August 21, 2013
posted in Product Development
With the release of Microscan’s AutoVISION 2.0 software, our simplified machine vision suite is now equipped with even more features to make setting up and deploying vision inspection jobs – from simple to complex – even easier. One new feature is Microscan Link, AutoVISION’s one-click connectivity tool that enables seamless integration of a machine vision inspection job into any automation system. From a single PLC to a network of machine vision cameras, Microscan Link establishes the line of communication between AutoVISION and the entire factory floor.



The Basics of Microscan Link


Microscan Link’s name speaks for itself – the point is to link data between a machine vision job and other parts of the automation system. Basically, Microscan Link allows input and output data to be communicated within and across the system. For example, inspection data may be captured by the vision system and reported back to a PLC (like in this video), or commands may be sent from an operator via an HMI to the vision system to adjust inspection tolerances. This data exchange helps define the parameters for the vision job...