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Creative Shop Solutions

A wider scope

By Gretchen Salois

February 2011 - By using an automated production line equipped with a micro camera, operators can ensure high-quality and precise welds. While some companies continue to rely on an operator’s observations, others are switching to high-powered cameras. Operators can distance themselves from the welding process by observing the weld on a television monitor next to a control panel.

Companies’ bottom lines are always a major concern. Using high-powered cameras continues to reduce overall production costs and wasteful scrap rates.

"In the past, we would build our own camera systems for integration into our welding systems," says Michael Bolduc, Eastern regional manager of ITW Jetline Engineering, Irvine, Calif.

When ITW Jetline needed an upgraded camera system, the company turned to InterTest Inc., Columbia, N.J. "InterTest offers a high-quality ‘off-the-shelf’ set of components that allow us to easily build around it," Bolduc says. "We’ve looked at other options but have returned to InterTest."

Jetline is using InterTest’s iShot Weld-i 1000 automated weld video monitoring system. It provides ITW Jetline the ability to verify the quality of automated welds in real-time. The mountable camera head is 1 in. in diameter, 3 in. long and equipped with an 11 mm lens and Xenon mini light, according to InterTest’s website. A different lens can be used for filtering while working in a number of set-ups.

The Weld-i 1000 has a color CCD micro camera with remote-controlled focus and iris, giving the operator the ability to view a high-resolution image of the torch, weld joint, puddle and feed wire. The camera is protected by an anodized aluminum body, replaceable shatter shield and internal cooling system.

InterTest’s easy-to-use capabilities allowed ITW Jetline to integrate InterTest’s products into everyday business, says Bolduc. The cameras allow operators to complete welding tasks with precision, without having to go back and fix mistakes, allowing operators to be free to complete more welding jobs per day instead of wasting time and resources remedying errors due to poor visibility and blurry images.

"If you’ve got a weld and you’re watching the welding process, it’s bright and you need to close the iris down," says William Habermann, InterTest president. "The same camera can be used for a pre-weld view and a post-weld view."

When using an automated machine, monitoring a weld takes multiple steps. In order for an operator to look at the piece during one movement to decide precisely where to weld, the operator needs a sophisticated camera. If a weld has a flaw, it can be expensive and time consuming to find the problem and fix it after the fact, says Habermann.

A cost-effective option
"We’ve used a wide variety of InterTest components," says Bolduc. For ITW Jetline’s needs, the company has tried a number of camera models in the past, but "no one model exclusively." According to Bolduc, what separates InterTest’s options from those of competitors is product durability. "We’ve found InterTest lenses to be durable with sharp images in a wide variety of welding applications," Bolduc says. In the past, ITW Jetline had trouble with poor image quality with competitors’ cameras. They were "difficult to work with" and were more expensive "without the benefits."

Habermann notes the difficulty in watching the weld is that a very precise alignment can be difficult for a worker to achieve due to some areas being bright in one place and not in another. The camera can see about a 10,000:1 ratio. "A weld is really about 1,000,000:1 ratio or higher than that, so we use a spot filter," he says. "We can use a partial field filter and position it so it’s over the brightest part and knock it down by 100." By reducing the intensity of the light, the camera is looking at 100 x 1,000 and the camera is seeing at a much higher range.

"Before having these little cameras, people had to stick their face near the weld. They’d shield their face and take a look," says Habermann. Not only was it dangerous, but since welds generate ultraviolet energy, the light could damage one’s vision severely. "We can watch this hazardous event from a safe distance while making a good weld," he says. FFJ

Sources

  • InterTest
    Columbia, N.J.
    phone: 800/535-3626
    fax: 908/496-8004
    www.intertestinc.com

  • ITW Jetline Engineering
    Irvine, Calif.
    phone: 949/951-1515
    fax: 949/951-9237
    www.jetline.com

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