Editor’s pickThe secret to achieving factory automation


From left: Tim Battke, Area Manager Sales & Engineering of Baumer Inspection, and Stefan Bickert, Managing Director of Baumer Inspection

Surface inspection system helps to detect defects on various surfaces according to the user’s requirement. As industrial automation continues to develop rapidly, the demand for quality standards in the panels and furniture manufacturing sector grows too. And in the pursuit to help achieve this perfection is Baumer Inspection, part of the Swiss Baumer Group.

More than just an inspection system

With more than 35 years of knowledge and experience, Baumer Inspection specialises in maximise precision for surface inspection and quality supervision. A leader in scanners for fully automatic inspection and process control, the company has installed more than 700 systems across the globe.

“As a market leader, you always have to be one step ahead. There is a reason why we have 700 systems and not 70 in the world — and that is innovation,” said Stefan Bickert, managing director of Baumer Inspection.

“If there is a problem, we do not hesitate to challenge the problem and find a solution for it. For example, we will try to develop a new camera to find the specific defect so as to improve what we're already doing,” he added.

Their patented ColourBrain® inspection systems automatically detect defects and monitor the production process and printing sharpness for papers or decor foils. In addition, the system also checks the panel board directly after lamination as well as each floor plank and furniture element for the smallest surface and edge defects.

Enforcing consistent quality

With the inspection system, the task of catching defects and organising the right wood grade is made easy as compared to the conventional way where a wood grader manually sorts and grades each and every panel board.

“I’ve tried that,” said Tim Battke, area manager sales & engineering of Baumer Inspection.

“I’ve sat there and looked, and after half an hour, I just couldn’t see anything more. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to do this for multiple hours in a row without getting tired and missing the defects,” he added.

The manual way leaves room for human error. For example, if the grader had too many drinks or a bad sleep on a Sunday night, his work may be affected the next day, Battke explained.

He said, “If the graders are not sure of what they are doing, they'll always err on the safe side. For example, if it's between grade A or B, they'll always go with B so as not to ship the bad product to the customers. Because if the boards are returned, they will have to report why they let this material out.

So on Monday, it was an A panel but was sorted under B. The company lost money because they did not sell the A grade as it went to B, which is 70 to 85 per cent cheaper than A.”

The need for consistent quality is also emphasised by Jasper Haunerland, plant engineer of Nolte Holzwerkstoff, a German company which manufactures reconstituted wood products including coated, lightweight, and custom wood products.

Haunerland said, “We needed to reduce the claims on defects. Previously, there was a guy standing there to check the board manually for eight hours a day. And for sure, some were missed as you’ll not be able to spot them.

With the patented ColourBrain® technology, it imitates human levels of perception when differentiating between good and damaged panels, thus, helping Nolte Holzwerkstoff to achieve reduction in the number of defects while increasing the quality of the boards sent to customers. “We are also able to understand the type of defects better because we have the statistics tools. We can now analyse and know which defects occur more often and based on this, choose what to do first to increase the quality.”

The system provides "quality data" of the production and the fraction of rejects of each production line and segment while operating day and night – to specify the potential of production optimisation.

The operator uses an intuitive and easy-to-understand user touchscreen interface with clearly structured graphic menus to define new products, set tolerances and to analyse the frequency and cause of defects with statistics and defect images.

In addition, the small, compact camera heads with integrated LED illumination can also be installed into other production machines. For instance, Schmidt Kitchens, the leading European kitchen and interior solutions brand, had the cameras integrated into their edge banding machines. The cameras are able to check furniture edges for the smallest melamine and glued joint defects directly in the edging machine, the lacquering of V-joints and the right positioning of clips in flooring lines.

Baumer Inspection uses belt conveyors instead of roller conveyors to ensure the boards move smoothly through the production line - emphasising on the importance of transportation

What makes Baumer Inspection different?

“We have everything here in Konstanz [Germany, where Baumer Inspection is located]. All our know-hows are here in this building as we do not outsource anything,” explained Bickert.

“We have our own sensor technologies and develop our own cameras. So, we are able to provide trickier solutions in the cameras. We also have online capabilities, FPGADs and many more to do online calculations while achieving real-time image processing.”

But more than that, the company also uses belt conveyors instead of roller conveyors to ensure the boards move smoothly through the production line.

“A customer once said they think they will not have any problems with roller conveyors. But it turned out, in the end, that they had huge problems with them. When the panel board runs through, it hits one of the rollers and makes a big jump, a 1mm jump to the top.

You see this in our pictures because the angle of the light changes in our cameras. The picture of the panel board [on the screen] with all these bumps and lines is a result of movement. It’s smooth at the beginning, but at the end it has movement because it falls down from the roller conveyor. So that's why transport is very important for us.”

The ColourBrain® systems’ patented technologies scan with multiple angles of illumination to detect every defect safely. Its innovative LED lighting systems with exactly aligned light colour make it possible to detect process deviations, such as heatlines and resin boils.

The reliability of the machine is reinforced by Anthony Messin, plant manager of Unilin, who said the company saw an increase of about eight per cent in the quality production of the boards.

“Now, with Baumer, it’ll just be one board that has defect instead of 100,” said Messin.

Pursuing Asia

Currently, Baumer Inspection is bringing their machines to Asia.

The region is the fastest growing market for the panels and furniture manufacturing industry, especially in Southeast Asia, due to rising urbanisation and disposable income.

In China alone, the country’s annual growth rate for wood-based panel consumption amounted to about 10.9 per cent from 2007 to 2016.

“Their [Asia’s] quality standard is higher and close to what we have here [in Germany], said Bickert.

“People are setting their quality standard higher; returning furniture even with a small defect. They want to get the most out of their product for their hard-earned money,” Battke explained.

Reliability is what the company enforces too.

With more than three decades of experience Baumer Inspection strives to continuously deliver high-quality solutions for factory automation. Customers of the highly specialised technology can be assured of total functionality of their inspection systems as well as comprehensive consulting and a reliable service 24/7.