A digital visual inspection station can improve quality control and protect operators.

We are in an era where modern technology and automation are rapidly evolving and pushing out conventional hand-operated tools. The LED magnifying glass lamp is among the instruments being phased out of quality inspection operations and replaced with new high-definition digital visual inspection stations. Top gear makers, among many types of manufacturers and quality control laboratories, embrace HD digital visual inspection stations (also referred to as electronic inspection magnifiers) to offer faster, more precise inspections, implement automation, and significantly reduce operators’ health hazards.

For decades, quality control personnel have been using the typical magnifying lens and ring-light setup for gear inspections. During long shifts, dedicated inspectors hold up objects such as rotors to the magnifying lenses, focusing their eyes on minute details to look for potential defects while rotating the items with their hands. This manual and old-fashioned inspection process is a time-consuming and labor-intensive task in dire need of an evolution at a time when factories consider every approach to keeping a healthy labor force without sacrificing quality or reduce production hours.

Today, manufacturers are steadily introducing digital visual inspection stations in their quality control processes. High-resolution video cameras in quality inspections are not novel approaches; they are successfully tried and tested by microelectronics and pharmaceutical manufacturers who have benefited from electronic inspection magnifiers for decades. What’s new is designing digital visual inspection stations as an out-of-the-box or off-the-shelf solution and building them with industrial-grade materials to endure in any factory environment, making them widely adaptable for gear manufacturers.

A digital visual inspection station is a standalone high magnification system used in quality assurance operations to inspect surfaces such as gears. (Courtesy: Abraham Innovation Systems Inc.)

What is a Digital Visual Inspection Station?

A digital visual inspection station is a standalone high magnification system used in quality assurance operations to inspect surfaces such as rotors made of metal, for example. Compared to traditional LED glass lamps, digital visual inspection stations will supply a higher magnification range, significantly augment precision, and increase the definition of the products at inspection. The standard magnifying glasses can magnify three to five times. At the same time, digital visual inspection stations offer magnification ranges from eight to 25 times. Equipped with autofocus features and a large 4K monitor, the digital visual inspection station is an excellent upgrade option to the traditional magnifier lens setup.

Additionally, adopting a digital visual inspection station will help document defects such as scratches, burrs, chips, and cracks with digital pictures. Recording and screen-capture functions in the digital visual inspection station are great time-saving features. Operators can snap and share images or attach quality reports within seconds, allowing for swift traceability defects and fast data transfer. There are countless benefits to having digital records of output defects. 

Another key feature is workplace ergonomics and alleviating other health concerns such as damage to the eyes from prolonged exposure to ring-light brightness.

Dr. Joseph Poon from Abraham Innovation Systems Inc. (AISI), shared his thoughts on this technology. AISI is a Canadian innovation company specializing in developing quality vision inspection systems and developers of the electronic inspection magnifier, A-EYE.

“The quality inspection practice is a major area for improvement and is at the top of mind of all manufacturers,” said Dr. Poon. “Having walked around factory floors for decades, I saw firsthand the dangers of the LED magnifier lenses. The operators are bending over while looking into a heavily lit glass lens, which often results in back pain, neck pain, and sore eyes. This non-ergonomic setup can be detrimental to the health of quality inspectors and has to evolve.”

Research shows Workplace Ergonomics reduce cost by lowering insurance claims and lost workdays and improving productivity, quality, employee engagement, and creating a better safety culture. (Source. Ergo-plus.com)

Using a digital visual inspection station is accurate, fast, and more comfortable for the employees to operate. (Courtesy: Abraham Innovation Systems Inc.)

Digital Visual Inspection Station Buying guide

It is essential to look for three main characteristics when buying a digital visual inspection station.

1) Build and design: A digital visual inspection station needs to be built with industrial-grade steel and durable to withstand dust and debris from workshop environments.

2) Connectivity: Many electronic magnifying devices only have a USB connection and have to be used with a computer. An industrial-grade and high-quality digital visual inspection station needs to have a direct HDMI output for those looking to operate a monitor or projector without connecting to a computer. A direct HDMI output from the digital visual inspection station is a critical requirement because it will allow managers to deploy multiple units in a shop without buying a computer for each running digital visual inspection station.

3) Ergonomics: Look for a digital visual inspection station that can be mounted and adjusted to operators’ requirements and preferences. 

Digitalizing quality inspection procedures allows operators to capture and document defects in real-time. (Courtesy: Abraham Innovation Systems Inc.)

Use Case One (Workshop)

Historically, most factories conduct manual quality inspection operations with magnifying glass lamps and LED ring lights on shop floors and quality inspection labs. Deploying industrial-grade electronic magnification systems is a desirable alternative to magnifying glass lamps. Using a digital visual inspection station is accurate, fast, and comfortable for the employees to operate, for starters.

Furthermore, digitalizing quality inspection procedures allows operators to capture and document defects in real-time, helping factories transition toward data automation. Digital visual inspection stations can connect to any computer and upload requested data or directly link to a monitor with an HDMI connection.

Finally, and perhaps the most useful function for factories using a digital visual inspection station, is the ergonomic upgrade; the versatility and ease of setting up a digital visual inspection station are perfect for providing comfort for any operator during long shifts.   

A digital visual inspection station is useful in quality meetings in both boardrooms and virtual meetings. (Courtesy: Abraham Innovation Systems Inc.)

Use Case Two (Conference Room)

Use a digital visual inspection station in conference rooms for product presentations or quality meetings. These systems are useful in quality meetings in both boardrooms and virtual meetings. The presenter can display product characteristics by connecting the digital visual inspection station to a monitor or computer to allow for easy screen sharing over virtual meeting applications. Imagine a plant having a meeting on Zoom with someone in headquarters in another location. 

In principle, any factory can significantly benefit by upgrading its quality inspection processes with an electronic magnification system. Considerable advantages for a digital visual inspection station instead of the magnifying glass and ring-light setup are more comfortable employees, coupled with accuracy and efficiency. An industrial-grade out-of-the-box electronic magnification system is undoubtedly attractive for any facility to deploy. 

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Fady Guirguis is with Abraham Innovation Systems Inc. For more information, visit www.abrahaminnovations.com/ergonomic.