Avoid a Pressing Problem

As any factory-floor engineer can tell you, finding solid solutions to the simplest manufacturing problems often can yield the greatest benefits.

This was the case at Silver City Aluminum (www.scaluminum.com), Taunton, Mass., a manufacturer of custom aluminum extrusions and finished parts.

The extrusion process is pretty straightforward. Large rolls of aluminum-called billets-are fed into the extrusion machine, pressed into a die using hydraulic power, and heated. It emerges as a slat, blind, or other shaped-aluminum product.

"Occasionally, after a billet has been cut, the excess fails to fall off," say Silver City's maintenance manager, Larry Johnson. "When this hanging piece hits the die, it can destroy it-to the tune of about $10,000 in replacement costs-or cause the machine to shut down, leading to expensive production losses." The challenge for Silver City was to find an inspection solution that could fit into a space-constrained area, be able to inspect a large area, and perform reliably in harsh environmental conditions while not breaking the bank.

The existing photoelectric sensor solution was unable to perform reliably in this manufacturing environment; it wasn't able to map the entire surface of the billet to determine whether a completely clean cut had been made.

Our February article, "Avoid a Pressing Problem," written by Mike Bray of CPU Automation, the system integrator company that helped Silver City, explains how machine vision was the answer. Read it now.