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Proceedings Paper

Computer vision challenges and technologies for agile manufacturing
Author(s): Perry A. Molley
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Paper Abstract

Sandia National Laboratories, a Department of Energy laboratory, is responsible for maintaining the safety, security, reliability, and availability of the nuclear weapons stockpile for the United States. Because of the changing national and global political climates and inevitable budget cuts, Sandia is changing the methods and processes it has traditionally used in the product realization cycle for weapon components. Because of the increasing age of the nuclear stockpile, it is certain that the reliability of these weapons will degrade with time unless eventual action is taken to repair, requalify, or renew them. Furthermore, due to the downsizing of the DOE weapons production sites and loss of technical personnel, the new product realization process is being focused on developing and deploying advanced automation technologies in order to maintain the capability for producing new components. The goal of Sandia's technology development program is to create a product realization environment that is cost effective, has improved quality and reduced cycle time for small lot sizes. The new environment will rely less on the expertise of humans and more on intelligent systems and automation to perform the production processes. The systems will be robust in order to provide maximum flexibility and responsiveness for rapidly changing component or product mixes. An integrated enterprise will allow ready access to and use of information for effective and efficient product and process design. Concurrent engineering methods will allow a speedup of the product realization cycle, reduce costs, and dramatically lessen the dependency on creating and testing physical prototypes. Virtual manufacturing will allow production processes to be designed, integrated, and programed off-line before a piece of hardware ever moves. The overriding goal is to be able to build a large variety of new weapons parts on short notice. Many of these technologies that are being developed are also applicable to commercial production processes and applications. Computer vision will play a critical role in the new agile production environment for automation of processes such as inspection, assembly, welding, material dispensing and other process control tasks. Although there are many academic and commercial solutions that have been developed, none have had widespread adoption considering the huge potential number of applications that could benefit from this technology. The reason for this slow adoption is that the advantages of computer vision for automation can be a double-edged sword. The benefits can be lost if the vision system requires an inordinate amount of time for reprogramming by a skilled operator to account for different parts, changes in lighting conditions, background clutter, changes in optics, etc. Commercially available solutions typically require an operator to manually program the vision system with features used for the recognition. In a recent survey, we asked a number of commercial manufacturers and machine vision companies the question, 'What prevents machine vision systems from being more useful in factories?' The number one (and unanimous) response was that vision systems require too much skill to set up and program to be cost effective.

Paper Details

Date Published: 27 February 1996
PDF: 2 pages
Proc. SPIE 2727, Visual Communications and Image Processing '96, (27 February 1996); doi: 10.1117/12.233237
Show Author Affiliations
Perry A. Molley, Sandia National Labs. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2727:
Visual Communications and Image Processing '96
Rashid Ansari; Mark J. T. Smith, Editor(s)

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