Revealed: The Benefits of Automated Quality Control
As product complexity increases across almost every market, quality control is now a vital step to ensure the safety and functionality of your products. Yet, quality control is often characterized by very repetitive and time-consuming tasks – which are resource-intensive and prone to human error.
The repetitive nature of many quality control tasks also makes them ideal for automation where a machine can use the same criteria in the same manner to complete the same series of tests. In this blog post, we reveal the benefits of automated quality control, examining the pros from both an automated quality control system and an automated quality control inspection perspective.
What is automated quality control?
An automated quality control system allows you to set specific test criteria and use real-time tracking to monitor your quality control processes. When these processes are complete, a report is then automatically produced, detailing the results and measurements taken.
Let’s use a common example to explain how this works when using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for a quality control analysis of an anti-corrosive coating on a steel surface. Here, the SEM can be used to assess the coating morphology and the percentage of coverage for the coating. The SEM is typically used with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) to map the surface and complete contamination analysis, providing a level of detail and elemental information other quality control processes are not capable of.
#1 Maximum speed, minimal time to results
An automated quality control system can provide fast results. All our SEM systems now include features like system presets, user guidance, photo navigation, un-do and re-do functionality, and auto functions to make the day-to-day operation of your SEM faster and more efficient than ever before.
Automation is widely used across a range of image analysis applications, where you can use automation to acquire large area mapping (mosaics), offload your routine imaging tasks so they run overnight, correlate different modalities, and visualize and share your results.
There is a range of dedicated programs for automated image analysis. Avizo 2D, for example, takes an input image and can automatically run a set of operations to characterize a material. It can do this on a single image or folder of images, where these inputs are fed directly into Avizo2D so that the analyzed data is available as the system is still acquiring. This software gives you access to advanced AI routines in a super easy-to-use environment.
If the user is conducting a quality control analysis of an anti-corrosive coating on a steel surface, for example, they can simply upload a set of images and apply a threshold on the greyscale, and hit ‘Go’. The automated quality control inspection tools effectively separate the (darker) coating and the (brighter) uncovered steel. This information is automatically transferred to a report, where you can access information including the average coverage percentage and the measurement statistics.
This expedites the quality control process massively, where the machine effectively does all the heavy lifting for you, completing all the manual analysis tasks in an automated manner.
What’s more, an automated quality control system can work 24/7, without breaks and without tiring, and has a single responsibility, unlike human operators who may have to split their time over various production tasks.
This can lead to massive time savings at your laboratory. Automated quality control recently helped to increase the productivity of one Thermo Scientific customer, semiconductor and electronics assembly provider Kulicke and Soffa, where the company saved 36 hours per week thanks to our automation technologies.
#2 Improved product quality and compliance
When you use automated quality control inspection tools, you remove the risk of human errors and can increase the quality of your products. An automated quality control system is more accurate and repeatable, compared to a human user, ensuring that your products are produced at the highest quality levels. The data provided by automation is also far more stable and reliable, in comparison to manual quality control checks.
Our ChemiSEM Technology is a highly automated tool that integrates your imaging and elemental analysis capabilities. This means researchers no longer need to move from SEM imaging to EDS analysis for each sample, boosting your productivity and broadening your user base.
It also provides comprehensive micro-scale elemental composition information, which is presented using colorization on your sample’s grayscale image. Elemental information is available immediately, allowing researchers to see the big picture and reveal defects and information that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
An automated quality control system can also help you meet industrial standards. The ISO 16232 and VDA 19 are two cleanliness standards in the automotive industry. Using our ChemiSEM Technology, you can easily determine the nature of contaminant particles, gaining both a quantitative and qualitative understanding of your sample.
This wealth of data is important. Cleanliness goes further than just determining the contamination source; the hardness of the particle determines the damage it can do. Hard materials left in an assembly can cause much more damage than soft materials. Determining these characteristics earlier in the process using an automated system like ChemiSEM Technology can save future costs for the manufacturer and save your laboratory valuable time.
#3 Innovation and cost savings
Automated quality control can help your laboratory save time and innovate. By freeing your staff from repetitive and manual tasks, they can now focus on strategic and value-added tasks, helping you innovate and work in other areas.
Automation is also a highly cost-effective strategy. While there is an upfront cost associated with an automated quality control system, you will realize long-term labor savings, and minimize losses from faulty processes, lost productivity, and missed service level agreements (SLAs). Automated quality control inspection is also a highly proactive tool, where you can reduce your failure analysis time if an issue is found.
Is automated quality control right for your lab?
Recent advances in SEM have enhanced many quality control procedures across many industries. From automotive manufacturing to semiconductors, SEMs play a critical role in the analysis of today’s products and their automated quality control, helping get the best quality products to market, faster. To find out more, click here to talk to one of our expert teams.
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