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Solving for the Limits of Human Visual Inspection


A key element of quality control in manufacturing is still good old-fashioned visual inspection.  From individual components to final inspect of completed assemblies, a visual examination by human operators makes an essential contribution to quality assurance. However, its fallibility presents challenges.

Error rates for visual inspection can be as low as 3-10% under the best conditions, to as high as 20-30% in suboptimal conditions. Striving for those low error rates requires investment in skilled, experienced, well-trained inspectors.  This also demands a comfortable environment including good lighting, frequent breaks, and low-stress levels.  From Juran’s Quality Handbook, we understand that 100% visual inspection is about 87% effective. So, by instituting a 300% inspection, effectiveness can be increased to 99.7%.  Of course, implementing triple inspection and the conditions that support it is costly and can slow production.  It’s also important to understand that, that as defect rates go down, so too does the effectiveness of visual inspection because of operator expectation bias. Of course, if you are making Hot Wheels, you might be comfortable with higher inspection errors (depending on the failure mode), but if you are a medical device manufacturer, the stakes are much higher and there is a demand for the lowest achievable defect rates.

Mitigating human shortcomings in vigilance is an ongoing challenge of quality control efforts.  Even under ideal conditions, an inspector’s focus starts to drop off after only 15 minutes, and they should have an extended break after no more than 30 minutes.  Advancements in automated sample handling and artificial intelligence are combining to provide a powerful backstop to inspection by human operators.  At Creative Electron, we are integrating these technologies with our best in class X-ray inspection systems to support operators in identifying defects or relieving them entirely with fully autonomous X-ray machines.

Automated X-ray systems don’t get tired, don’t lose focus, and don’t waver in their consistency.  Autonomous X-ray inspection can free up talented and experienced operators for other tasks, and your X-ray system is never going to leave you for a better offer that comes across it’s LinkedIn feed.  We design these systems to address every aspect of your inspection requirement by integrating conveyors, cobots, and robots for material handling and sample manipulation.  When equipped with autonomous decision making, the failed product can easily be segregated and even quarantined.  Whether implemented to support or replace visual inspection by humans, Creative Electron will design your X-ray inspection system to support rapid and reliable quality control to achieve 100% inspection without slowing down your production line.

You have quality control challenges, whether with defect rates or the cost of your current process, and Creative Electron has solutions.  Reach out, connect with our team, and let’s get creative!

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