NEW CHALLENGES FOR INSPECTION & SORTING | FASTENER EURASIA MAGAZINE
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NEW CHALLENGES FOR INSPECTION & SORTING

Inspection and testing of fasteners has actually become one of the major challenges in the fastener industry. Over the past 20 years we have seen an exponential increase in the automatic assembly of products.

The more and more objects that for a long time were assembled by hand, are now produced with advanced automatic assembly lines, which require perfect fasteners to guarantee the expected yield.

The development of automation in assembly has prompted the redesign and re-engineering of products in order to be assembled efficiently with the new automatic lines.

That improvements led to the development of special fasteners produced with new materials and very complex shapes and consequently boosted the evolution of treatments and finishing processes, necessary to guarantee the functionality of the fixings and the final quality of the assembled product.

To keep up with the new production processes and prevent the production of non-compliant fasteners, monitoring equipment on production machinery and surveillance systems of treatment lines have been introduced.

New SPC control strategies and new ERP systems integrated with the production departments, together with predictive maintenance procedures have been introduced, in order to reduce the intervention time in the event of any process anomaly.

Despite the above mentioned progresses in the production departments it is still impossible to produce fasteners with zero defects. This happens because the fasteners are more complex, the processes are more automated and the non-compliances to be detected are including much more critical features than before.

Thirty years ago the non-compliance to be detected on standard headed screws were much more simple: head diameter, recess depth, shank length, missing thread. Today the non-compliances on the same type of screw must include, for example, also : radius below the head, thread starting point, nicks and dents on the threaded shank 360°, head marking logo, coating stains, nicks and dents on any surface, missing heat treatment, cracks on the head, bending of the shank, overall socket shape, socket broken lobes and more.

Increasing automation and the latest requirements in terms of fasteners compliance have led manufacturers to a complete re-evaluation of the concept of 100% Inspection & sorting, which has become a crucial step of the production chain.

Today, every project to produce a new type of fastener includes the final 100% inspection and sorting process with suitable machines. Every new production line is designed including the inspection machines which are necessary to check the most important dimensional and functional features of the fastener together with its aesthetical aspect.

Moreover, in the last 4 years the demand to perform NDT checks for cracks and hardness / heat treatment with high output rates has undergone a significant surge and most of the modern control machines can offer Eddycurrent stations as options for this type of verification.

The Eddycurrent technology has evolved a lot in this sense, the equipment and the probes to detect cracks and material quality have become very sensitive and the software processing algorithms very sophisticated but also very user-friendly

With more than 20 years of experience and more than thousand machines installed around the world Dimac is challenged every day by the fasteners manufacturers to design and study custom machines for the sorting of a wide range of products for different markets : automotive, aerospace, hydraulic, electronic, medical, appliances, furniture and more.

The fasteners manufacturers require Dimac to build high performant 100% automatic inspection & sorting machines with adaptive control stations and a very user friendly teach-in man machine interface. 

Machines which could run unattended on a 24h/7 basis with very complex inspection technologies, operated by unskilled personnel for the setup.

Artificial Intelligence algorithms have been introduced in these machines starting from 2019 to allow the inspection of surface defects which only the human eye could detect and judge. Any cylindrical and flat surface of the product must be scanned with lasers and digital cameras to recognize any little deformity of the part.

The objective is to replace the human manual sorting which is still present in many production factories in order to reduce the costs and obtain a more reliable inspection for several products which can’t be controlled with automatic procedures.

Last but not least, many manufacturing companies are developing their Industry 4.0 projects which involves every single department of the factory, including the inspection & sorting departments. Every machine in the production floor is connected to the company network and monitored through the MES and ERP in order to adjust the processes in real time.

Inspection machines can provide a big amount of data regarding every single batch of fasteners, including measured features, defects by attributes and statistic calculations which could be treated with the company ERP procedures combined with algorithms to trace and to know nearly everything about the quality of every single produced fastener.