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Machine Vision: Transforming Manufacturing Processes for the Automotive Industry

Taking manufacturing operations to new levels with one intuitive technology.

Automotive manufacturers and parts suppliers are always under pressure to improve production performance, quality and timing. But expectations are higher than ever from consumers, channel partners, and government regulators. Quite simply, every stakeholder expects near perfection with no margin for error. And this is why now is a critical time for auto manufacturers and suppliers to take a closer look at deploying or upgrading machine vision systems to automate and improve traceability and visual inspections.

Using machine vision systems is a proven and highly effective strategy for automating and error-proofing inspection and other key processes. And the good news is that machine vision has become vastly easier and significantly more cost-effective to implement, thanks to some revolutionary new changes introduced by Zebra Technologies.

Let’s take a look at what machine vision solutions can do in automotive production and quality processes, how they can automate and error-proof visual inspections, and how Zebra has made it easier and more affordable than ever to deploy these technologies.

The Case for Next-Generation Machine Vision

Building an automobile is a huge undertaking, with an average of over 30,000 parts that need to be designed, manufactured, and assembled. Inspecting all of them is another massive challenge. With regulatory requirements and consumer demand for quality, manufacturers and suppliers have to do everything they can to ensure flawless production.

But it’s not easy for workers to see if every component is present, much less properly seated, as parts and assemblies move down the line. And the human eye can’t successfully confirm the proper use of sealants and adhesives or identify a design flaw in a tiny chipset, bead, or bolt without some help from high-resolution cameras. This is where machine vision plays a vital role, allowing visual inspections to be automated and error-proofed using advanced sensors. These sensors can be configured and fine-tuned to detect the tiniest flaws and defects, check for the presence or absence of key components, validate correct assemblies, labeling, and packaging, and much more.

Sensors can inspect virtually anything as it passes their field of vision, and it all happens automatically with little to no intervention from a system operator. For example, automotive suppliers and manufacturers can deploy machine vision to automate a wide variety of processes, including:

  • Tracing and inspecting parts, components, subassemblies, assemblies and products
  • Counting, routing, sorting and verifying parts and products on production lines
  • Detecting defects, scratches, sealing or adhesive issues, or color degradation
  • Detecting foreign material or contamination with contrast inspection
  • Inspecting labels for content, print quality, position, presence/absence, orientation, etc.
  • Inspecting packaging for sealing or issues from product variations or defects
  • Checking dates, lot codes and case codes to verify correct labels and packaging

However, until recently, machine vision systems have often been time-consuming to deploy, learn and configure, and they’ve often required different sets of hardware and software programs to set up and manage different jobs and applications. Older technology had difficulty capturing the required image resolution at the required speeds to enable consistent and reliable automated analysis.

But all of that has changed with Zebra’s entry into the industrial automation space and the introduction of an entirely new approach to machine vision. As a global leader in automated identification, data capture, and sensor technologies for decades, Zebra worked with manufacturers around the world to create a new technology platform that completely simplifies and streamlines machine vision.

Zebra’s Machine Vision Technology: User Friendly and More Efficient

Zebra has combined machine vision with fixed industrial scanning in a single hardware platform that enables both scanning and visual inspection with the same devices. Instead of having to buy separate and additional hardware for fixed scanning versus machine vision sensing, manufacturers can get both capabilities from one platform, with fewer devices to buy and deploy.

With this dual-capability, it’s no longer necessary to install multiple types of solutions across facilities to automate visual inspection, verify parts or assemblies, confirm proper package labeling, or track and trace inventory movement down the line. In fact, with Zebra’s ImagePerfect, you can capture up to 16 images of a single target with just one device, and each image can have its own exposure settings for different lighting requirements and different focus plane settings for different distances.

Additionally, Zebra developed a single software platform to configure and manage both machine vision and fixed scanning jobs and devices. The software is completely modern, with a truly user-friendly interface where every setting is a matter of using a simple slider or radio button, no matter how sophisticated or complex the job might be.  Built-in guided tutorials and help videos allow beginners and experts alike to get going right away and learn as they go, and Zebra’s Auto-Tune and other software tools help automate device and image capture setup.

Ultimately, this means there is less hardware and software to buy and learn, so it’s much faster, easier and more affordable to get a machine vision or fixed scanning solution up and running. Despite this simplicity, Zebra’s scanners and machine vision solutions are packed with powerful scanning algorithms and vision sensors that enable the most sophisticated industrial automation and visual inspection.

These include scanning 1D/2D barcodes, DPMs and OCR text for traceability, counting, sorting, and label quality inspection. And you can also use Zebra’s machine vision to inspect for defects, contamination, proper sealing, presence/absence, proper assembly, correct packaging, process step verification, and much more. Zebra’s vision and scanning technology is designed to capture data and images for virtually any job, with a wide range of sensors ranging from 1 to 5 megapixels in resolution. Zebra also provides modular integrated or external lighting and liquid lens technology or a wide range of C-mount lenses. You also get access to wavelength, bandpass and polarizing filters.

In terms of integration and communication, there’s plenty of flexibility, including USB-C, Serial or dual-Ethernet communication, so your devices can receive instructions through one Ethernet connection and send data and images with the other.

Zebra’s machine vision and fixed scanning solutions also include support for EthernetIP, ProfiNet, CC-Link, ModBus and TCP/IP. And there are fully customizable inputs and outputs, so you can easily connect and integrate your devices with your industrial networks and systems. There are also multiple ways to connect to power via 24VDC, USB-C or PoE.

Exploring the Easier Solution for Machine Vision and Fixed Scanning

At the end of the day, deploying or upgrading to solutions like Zebra’s machine vision and fixed industrial scanners gives auto manufacturers and suppliers a powerful way to get ahead of quality and production demands. By automating visual inspections and traceability, and by capturing the data to automate and error-proof more processes, companies can increase high-quality output with far less effort and expense.

To learn more about how you can do this, what kind of devices you might need, and how to deploy or upgrade the right solutions in your operations, visit our website, then contact our industrial automation experts at Barcom to set up a quick consultation at your convenience.



4136B Jersey Pike, Chattanooga, TN 37421

Phone (423) 855-1822 | Fax (423) 499-6317



BARCOM, INC.  •  •  423-855-1822