Faster, more reliable, more efficient – the demands on modern production systems continue to rise. They are supposed to run continuously and provide consistently high quality. This is not just what the customer expects; it is also what the plant constructor promises. However, in practice plant operators can rarely run their plants at their full potential. The reasons for this are manifold. Tools and equipment wear out, demands grow, or products and employees change. 

However, in some cases, the causes cannot be explained. Operators have to run their facilities at slower than planned speeds because of unexplained excessive wastage at target speed. Or the facilities deliver satisfactory quality, but there are irregularly occurring plant downtimes at regular production speed for reasons unknown. If the systems do not run optimally, the return on investment remains below expectations. Therefore, it is important to promptly and reliably identify the sources of error.   

Visualizing faulty processes

This is where the Mikrotron high-speed cameras come into play. They make production processes visible. Filling systems for beverage production, presses for sheet metal processing, packaging machinery for food production, pharmaceutical labeling systems, robots in the automotive industry – our high-speed cameras can be used successfully in nearly all industries, documenting faulty processes at a frame rate of up to 20,000 frames per second. The videos recorded can be played more slowly by a factor of 20 to 50. Thus, with the help of software, the processes can be visually analyzed frame by frame. Sources of error can be found quickly and reliably.      

This slow-motion video to the left was recorded to prevent and troubleshoot manufacturing deviations. It shows the production of blister packs at the Neuenburg site of Nemera. These are used to package one-day contact lenses. What you see is the ejection of the packs after molding. This pressing process kept faltering, as one blister pack repeatedly got stuck on the pin. The machine’s control signal was recorded simultaneously in each video frame, helping to reprogram the machine. The interval time was synchronized with a precision in the millisecond range. The MotionBLITZ® Cube2 high-speed camera captured 500 frames per second at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 pixel.

Distinguishing between image processing and high speed

Image processing cameras and high-speed cameras are often found in the same plant. But they fulfill completely different functions. Image processing is responsible for quality control. It ensures that no defective parts, which may lead to claims for damages, are delivered. Image processing is therefore a form of assurance.

High-speed cameras document processes for plant operators, allowing them to analyze in detail and thus exploit the potential of each plant. The value added per plant can be brought up to the originally planned levels. In many cases, the documentation process makes it possible to boost productivity levels beyond this.   

Picking the perfect camera

The MotionBLITZ® high-speed recording cameras are specially designed for use in difficult conditions. Even with a lack of space, poor lighting, temperature fluctuations, vibrations and high demands on recording times they deliver precise images of fast processes.  

The structure of your plant will determine how much space is available for the camera. With dimensions of only 63 × 63 × 64.5 mm, the MotionBLITZ EoSens® mini camera can also be installed in very cramped spaces. These small cameras offer the technical performance of the larger cameras. More designs are available with the MotionBLITZ® Cube series or the eosens TS3 high-speed cameras. The field of view is determined by the selection of the appropriate lens.  

Optimally adjust the resolution, frame rate and photosensitivity

The modern sensors used by the MotionBLITZ® Cube series make it possible to find the right combination of resolution, high frame rates and photosensitivity. For example, the MotionBLITZ® Cube4 can take up to 1,000 images per second at a high resolution of 1,280 × 1,024 pixels. It thus provides crisp, clear images of very fast processes.

Depending on the requirements, with a smaller region of interest, the frame rate can even be increased to 93,000 frames per second. In addition, the sensors are designed to be very sensitive. This means that the high light requirement can be reduced to an easily manageable level. Ambient light alone is often sufficient.   

Reliably recording the time of the fault

In order to store the processes safely, Mikrotron high-speed cameras use a ring storage device. This memory device is completely filled with shots and constantly overwritten again. Thus, when the error occurs, a signal is sent to the camera and the recording is stopped. The  video material recorded up to that point remains on the internal memory and can be read onto a notebook or PC. The signal is triggered by a person watching the process or by a sensor connected to the camera.

Alternatively, the additional ImageBLITZ® function stops the recording when it detects a change of brightness in the image. The MotionBLITZ® Cube cameras can still record at full resolution and speed for up to 13 seconds without being connected to a notebook or PC. The correct setting of recording time, resolution and speed can be individually adjusted.

 

A missing electrolyte drop changed the battery characteristics, polluting the production line and increasing the maintenance costs. “Even the first high-speed recordings with our MotionBLITZ® Cube2 allowed us to make huge steps forward,” explains Josef Graule, production engineer at Varta Consumer Batteries in Dischingen. “We could choose the filling nozzles so that the filling process did not lead to annoying splashes.” The drops are colored red in the pictures.

Play video sequences and detect errors

The MotionBLITZ® Cube and the EoSens® mini series will download the recorded images to a computer via an Ethernet port. One laptop nearby is sufficient. You can then use this to browse through the material, crop the relevant process and convert it to a common format.

Alternatively there is a large screen on the back of the eosens TS series. The videos can be viewed via the touch-screen interface, edited, converted and transferred to an SD card. This means you can work without a computer “on location.” In addition, eosens TS cameras can be used without a mains power connection for up to 4 hours. This means they are fast and flexible, requiring little effort.   

One plant operator had the problem that broken cookies were being packed. A slow-motion study was able to uncover what was not visible to the human eye. Some cookies to be packaged were put on their trays too fast. Furthermore, the recording showed that cookies arrived diagonally. The plant operator filmed freehand. He used the MotionBLITZ® Cube2 with a resolution of 640 × 512 pixels and a frame rate of 505 frames per second. The sequence of images shown consists of 130 recordings made in less than 260 milliseconds.