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Top 7 Use Cases of Computer Vision in Manufacturing

Computer vision has emerged as an indispensable technological asset across various industries, and manufacturing is no exception. Unsurprisingly, the global computer vision market stands on the brink of remarkable growth, with projections outlining a market value of $21.3 billion by 2030 (up from $11.7 billion in 2021) at an impressive CAGR of 6.9%.

Manufacturing facilities worldwide can now leverage the capabilities of computer vision to optimize operations and magnify quality, accuracy, and speed. So, for the purpose of this blog, we will explore the remarkable impact of computer vision in the manufacturing sector by uncovering an array of use cases shaping the industry’s future.

1. Quality Control & Inspection

Computer vision is particularly well-suited for inspecting complex machinery equipment where even minor defects can lead to costly re-work. It detects anomalies that could be otherwise overlooked — such as scratches, abrasions, and surface damage.

For this, a high-speed rotating camera with a wide field of view captures an image of the entire surface of a manufactured part or the machinery being used for production. By comparing the captured image to a database of approved parts, a computer vision system helps determine if there are any discrepancies that need to be acted upon. 

2. Predictive Maintenance

As factories become more dependent on computer vision, predictive maintenance will likely become the next frontier. A machine vision system can identify signs of impending failure and enable a manufacturer to correct issues before they cause downtime. Through machine learning, the system can identify subtle changes, such as a drop in motor speed or a variation in movement, that could signal an issue and notify maintenance accordingly.

As an example, think of a machine vision system that is being used to inspect belts on a lathe. As the belt stretches due to the machine’s rotational motion, it causes damage to the pulley and cutter teeth. The computer vision system can detect the damage and alert the operator before it causes further damage. This is particularly valuable in factory settings, where rapid belt replacement can lead to serious delays.

3. Inventory Management

Computer vision can help manufacturers keep track of their inventory. It can be used to do things like:

  • Track the movement of products in real-time: This means manufacturers can see exactly how many products they have and where they are at all times. This can help them avoid stockouts and overstocks.
  • Automate the inventory counting process: This means no more manually counting products, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Detect damaged products: This can help manufacturers prevent damaged products from being shipped to customers.
  • Track expiration dates: This can help ensure that products are not sold after their expiration date.
  • Optimize restocking: This can help make sure that manufacturers always have the right products in stock in the right quantities.

4. Assembly Optimization

Automated assembly line production has revolutionized the manufacturing industry over the years. Computer vision adds to the approach and capably detects the position and orientation of parts to optimize the assembly process.

Through the use of a computer vision system, assembly line operators can inspect parts as they are being added to the assembly and ensure that each part is correctly aligned with its adjacent parts. The system determines whether a part is correctly positioned on the assembly line and alerts workers when it isn’t. This reduces the time for quality checks, which enables the manufacturer to speed up their assembly process.

5. Robotics & Automation

Computer vision is transforming the robotics industry by enabling robots and machines to “see” and interpret their surroundings. This technology finds a natural fit in warehouse environments, where robots often need to navigate around large containers and intricate layouts. Computer vision equips these robots with the ability to recognize obstacles, adjust their paths in real-time, and operate with greater precision and safety.

One particular illustration of robotics is the automated guided vehicle (AGV), or a robot that transports materials in a factory. In various industries, computer vision enables AGVs to navigate through a factory on their own, eliminating the need for human operators.

6. Safety & Compliance

Speaking of robots, they can also be made to identify and correct violations in a factory process. For example, when a computer vision system detects a human worker in the area of a robot, it can disable or stop the robot. It can further alert the human worker to step off the restricted area. This can help prevent any serious accidents.

Additionally, computer vision enables several kinds of safety protocols — from preventing workers from moving parts too far to monitoring workers’ movement in a factory. Computer vision-enabled compliant systems can eliminate the need for dangerous and costly man-in-the-loop (MiL) systems. 

7. Collaboration Opportunities

Consider Amazon’s cashier-free grocery stores. Amazon is able to integrate computer vision and machine learning algorithms to detect when someone has picked up an item off the shelf. When this happens, an external system gives a voice command to the cashier, who then instructs the shopper to either finish making their purchase or stop. 

If there is a malfunction, the computer vision system can alert operators and/or take over functions from the operator when needed — an outstanding illustration of how humans and robots can collaborate to accomplish the intended result.

To Sum Up

Computer vision has the capacity to revolutionize the manufacturing sector by making it possible for plants to run 24/7, prevent the need for reactive post-mortem analysis, and adhere to safety requirements. And this is merely scratching the surface.

As computer vision comes into greater use, other industries will also undergo transformation. Enterprises that implement computer vision will be able to operate more productively, enabling them to expand more quickly than their competition.

Ready to embrace the future of manufacturing with computer vision? Contact Ascentt today and find out how our solutions can help your organization operate more efficiently through the power of computer vision.

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