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March 1, 1999

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Product News - Vision System Now On Windows NT: 'Instant Replay' Software, BasicSystem, Round Out Product Line

Vision System Now On Windows NT: 'Instant Replay' Software, Basic System, Round Out

Product Line

pn-4.jpgAvalon Imaging says the newest version of its PlantVision software runs on the Windows NT operating system and is said to be the plastics industry's only vision system to do so.

Benefits cited by the firm include:

  • Routine checks of troubleshooting logs while the system is still in full operation providing mold protection (see 'Press troubleshooting').

  • Support of networking for customers who want to include their systems in process monitoring strategies.

  • A broader product line (which includes a new basic model, see 'Basic vision system') with faster time-to-market.

"This is possible," says Elliott Bouillion, Avalon President and CEO, "because of the greater flexibility to work with third-party suppliers of vision technology on the same Windows standards. We were able to develop a scalable product line, matching the sophistication of the vision components to the complexity of the inspection need."

"Being on the new industry standard allows us to buy compatible off-the-shelf products versus building them ourselves," he adds. "For example, we can expand customers' inspection capabilities using vision techniques from Cognex Corp., with whom we recently announced a strategic partnership" (see ACTS   Industry News p 41).

PN-5Press troubleshooting ProcessRx is a system designed for archiving and replaying photo images of past molding cycles, enabling troubleshooting of process variance problems. The company says it basically gives users an 'instant replay' of the 10 cycles leading up to a problem.

The system is part of the firm's new Windows NT-based product line, which became available last month.

ProcessRx is a software module that runs in parallel with the company's vision system software, keeping a running archive of the images of the mold face, before and after part ejection, for every cycle. These photo images are captured as part of the vision system's inspection for stuck parts, misaligned pins and other tooling problems.

Before, the vision system had to discard these images as soon as each cycle was complete. With Windows NT's multi-tasking abilities, however, the company was able to build a separate product running in tandem with its PlantVision software to capture and organize these images for troubleshooting.

The company says the hardest part of troubleshooting is knowing exactly what happened when, for example, a tool crashed or a short shot developed. A text-based event log can tell you when it happened but not how.

ProcessRx provides a short movie of what happened. The playback feature lets users animate the last 10 cycles leading up to the problem that caused the vision system to alarm. Users can see a slide starting to stick, or a short shot trend developing over several cycles. And you have the pictures you need to communicate the problem for faster resolution.

The archival system automatically stores important or unusual events, such as an inspection stop indicating a stuck part or other tooling failure. It also keeps the previous 10 images leading up to each of these events.

This feature allows several days of data to be archived, enough to cover the weekend shift, for example, so that the Monday morning hand-off can include detailed information on process or tooling problems encountered, or changes in vision set-ups.

ProcessRx also includes report and set-up options that provide precise failure tracking information in written and charted formats. Set-up technicians can assign names to inspection windows, so tooling problems can be tracked according to which cavity, pin or slide is causing the most problems.

These reports can be run any time during a production run, without taking the system out of its inspection mode. The data tracked by the system is stored in a Microsoft Access-compatible database, so it's easy to export to SPC packages for further analysis or quality documentation.

ProcessRx is a standard feature of Avalon's Pro product line, and is available as an add-on module to its Basic mold protection vision system (see   below).

Basic vision system is a scalable product based on requests for a more basic, but upgradable system that allows users to expand their use of vision mold monitoring on a plant-wide basis.

The VisionScope Basic controller with VisionScope Basic software is designed for less complex molds. It includes all the features necessary to support 100% reliable mold monitoring of molds on a horizontal press.

Avalon says its customers said they wanted to keep the form of the system the same, with a built-in monitor for fast mold changes and easy failure tracking, security features to prevent accidental changes to the set-up and the same software interface to minimize training requirements.

An advantage to this approach is that the product line is scalable. As a plant's tool mix changes over time, users can upgrade Basic systems to the Pro line. This type of investment protection is not possible with PLC-based vision systems. Price is about 40% less than the Pro product line.

Avalon Imaging 
Boulder, CO

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