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Quality Control Puts Technology on the Line

July 12, 2020
Going beyond skill and determination, metalcasters finally have the means to inspect for product defects and process errors inline, where control matters.

It would be unfair and inaccurate to report that metalcasters and other manufacturers are more dedicated to quality control now than ever before. Quality has been a manufacturing priority for decades. But with keywords like "total" and "universal," and assurances of "100% inspection," there is new enthusiasm for applying quality control in-line with production. The new emphasis makes sense, particularly in metalcasting, following previous drives for high productivity, following quests for complex and unitized casting design, and with shorter elapsed times from design to production. Driving for total quality control reinforces preceding goals.

But the drive for quality control is a technological pursuit. In May the Swiss firm Yxlon International unveiled its "completely new operating concept" for in-line product inspection, combining X-ray technology and computed tomography.

What the Yxlon UX20 X-ray/CT combo does not do is rely on plant personnel extensively trained in those skills. The components (e.g., a generator, cooler, and high-voltage cable) are integrated into a cabinet, protected against the foundry environment for extended use, and still easily loaded/unloaded and accessible for maintenance. Thanks to its CT functions, parts up to 800 mm in diameter and 1100 mm high can be inspected reliably, and the height-adjustable operator work area is directly attached to the system.

The compact cabinet-housed system builds on Yxlon software for intuitive menu navigation, numerous pre-settings, and the ability to switch between radioscopy and computed tomography so metalcasters have an optimal unit for quick and easy inspection of castings, welds, plastic and ceramic components, and special alloys.

The developer emphasizes the versatility of the UX20 system to adapt to user requirements: the standard configuration can be customized with various upgrades and options to keep the inspection process current with a foundry's changing needs.

Also new is a lightweight, compact scanner from Capture 3D that acquires high-definition and precise, three-dimensional scans of small to medium-sized parts, with interchangeable measuring lenses. The portable ATOS Q is a blue-light 3D scanner used for aerospace, automotive, medical, and other parts, to obtain accurate digital blueprints of parts, components, assemblies, tooling, and molds.

ATOS Q captures 8 million or 12 million points per scan (PPS) via quick scans to create a high-definition file with intricate feature detail. High-tech electronics and optics combine with lightweight, but rugged, design and powerful software, for high-precision dimensional inspection, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping, CFD/FEA analysis, digital assembly, etc. It has a fiber-optic connection for rapid data transmission, an intelligent self-monitoring calibration system, and active temperature management.

The system can be configured with a tripod, industrial camera stand, desktop stand, or fully automated with the ScanBox 4105, and it integrates easily with rotation tables or the tilt-and-swivel for semi-automated applications. It has five interchangeable measuring volumes — 100x70 mm2 to 500x370 mm2.

“Having this much speed and resolution in a compact solution that can accurately measure different surfaces in virtually any environment at this price isn’t just a step forward for our industry— it’s a complete breakthrough,” said Capture CEO Rick White.

Also new is the Zeiss VoluMax F1500 thunder CT system combining Bosello High Technology computed tomography with Carl Zeiss AG evaluation software. The developers claim it is the first inspection package equipped with an automatic conveyor: with just eight seconds per part for loading and unloading, parts are fed directly through the CT and actual scan time is as low as 36 seconds, depending on the part.

The system comes with its ZEISS Automated Defect Detection software to locate cavities, fissures, or pores and other defects, and classifies these defects too. The software can determine whether a defect may cause problems during later production steps, and if particular types of defects occur frequently the system operators can intervene in the production process to avoid further rejects.

As must be the case for systems inspecting parts during production, the Zeiss VoluMax F1500 thunder requires very little maintenance, and its simple configurability allows operators to adapt their inspection techniques and correct minor flaws directly.

Quality control is not a new objective for metalcasters, but it is one they are able to pursue with combinations of technology never before available.