AMRC explores future of automated visual inspection

The concept for a new automated visual inspection system that uses robotics to manipulate metallic components is being tested at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).


The AV&R automated visual inspection system in action at AMRC Factory 2050 - image courtesy of AMRC.
The AV&R automated visual inspection system in action at AMRC Factory 2050 – image courtesy of AMRC.

Automated visual inspection refers to the automating of the detection and classification of defects using robotics.

It is particularly relevant for high-value complex metallic components used in industries such as aerospace and medical where the assurance of high-quality is essential for a complex component to meet expected performance levels

The AMRC is collaborating with Canadian automation, machine vision, and robotics specialist, AV&R, to develop a new system in a simulated industrial environment, proving out the technology and de-risking any potential investment for end users.

The AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group (IMG) will be conducting trials of the AV&R system, which is now deployed at Factory 2050 thanks to funding from the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.

The development of the system hopes to make quality testing more efficient, more repeatable and allow manufacturers to increase their testing capacity, speeding up the overall manufacturing process for complex components.

The AV&R system uses a robot to handle a component lit from various angles, and rotates it in front of a camera so the system can acquire photometric data about the component surface.

AMRC engineers are configuring the system to collect significant data about AV&R’s testing process to optimise the set-up so the system can be used for bespoke inspection processes and be verified for use on multiple components across various industrial sectors.

The team will also create a ‘digital twin’ that will assist operators and aid remote assistance for preventative maintenance.

Strategic partnerships manager of AV&R Aerospace, Philippe Masson explained: “The system focuses on the inspection of small surface defects, with our main market being within aerospace inspection processes.

“Our new capability of inspecting different type of parts was the catalyst for discussions with the AMRC about future automated visual inspection tests which could be performed on high value components.

“Together, we are exploring latest technologies for a human operator to review the machine’s results with augmented reality.”

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