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Top 5 Reasons to Use Automated Optical Inspection

Electronic board inspection might be the most important step in the entire production process. It is the last line of defense before the product is shipped to the customer. Knowing this, consideration of some support for inspectors might be necessary. Luckily, there are Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) machines. These machines look at a board or panel of boards, and let the operator know of all the errors it found. The use of an AOI machine can be a real benefit to a contract manufacturing facility especially when producing medical devices that sometimes can be active implants, drug delivery or any type of medical-grade wearable device. Valtronic U.S. CEO, Jay Wimer with AOI Machine poses for photo. 

  1. Inspection Speed
    First thing’s first: AOI machines are quick. Really quick. After initial programming and tuning, an entire panel of electronic circuit boards that may have taken an hour to inspect visually could potentially only take a minute to run through the machine. Add on another couple minutes for the operator to validate all the errors the machine called, and we’re still looking at a small fraction of the time per-panel than in a manual inspection. This keeps product moving throughout the manufacturing plant at a better pace than if each panel was waiting on a visual inspection.
  2. Inspection Accuracy
    Even with all that speed, the cameras in AOI machines are extremely precise. With an experienced machine operator supporting the machine, the programs can be tuned to catch any little defect that might rear its head. Catching and fixing these errors before they move on to another process is key.
  3. Quick Catches
    These errors being caught could even be stopped as they start! With an AOI, the Surface Mount Technology (SMT) process has great support. As the machine finds errors, the AOI operator can alert the SMT line to any problems that arise (and as they arise), and can be fixed before the entire job is run. This can lead to a much greater first-pass-yield from SMT, and less time spent on rework for that process. An AOI in-line for each SMT line is all the better!
  4. Inspection Consistency
    Being consistent during visual inspections can be difficult. A good inspector may have a great, quick process for each board they inspect, but there is still a lot of human error in that method. With an AOI machine, the images taken are in the exact same place with every single panel that goes through. The camera won’t miss inspecting a part on accident, and it could catch some things that an inspector may miss, (since it doesn’t get tired).
  5. Less Strain
    Lastly, as you may be gathering, the AOI machine really relieves a lot of strain off. Not only on the human inspectors, but the entire process. Quick catches during the SMT process leads to less rework, which moves product through the facility more efficiently and to the next step int he production process. Less errors found by inspectors keeps their eyes sharp for when the errors do show up.

It really must be noted that Automated Inspection Systems aren’t without their faults. Constant and consistent false failures will drive an operator mad and cause them to miss actual errors. In the effort to speed through the false failures, let me note that programming properly is a must. It must also be noted that AOI systems are not an “end-all, be-all” thing. They’re another quality check and an early-on support for inspectors. They should never be used to replace actual visual inspections.

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