robotiX™ – Automation for X-ray Inspection

North Star Imaging Blog

Tucker Behrns

Engineering Manager

North Star Imaging’s recent robotiX development incorporates the proven technology of industrial robots into our standard line of Digital Radiography (DR 2D - x-ray) and Computed Tomography (CT 3D x-ray) x-ray equipment. The goal of this development is to improve system automation as well as incorporate flexibility for the user.

Products currently offered include the robotiX part loader and the robotiX manipulator. The robotiX part loader automates part handling of a product for loading and unloading the system. The robotiX manipulator incorporates a robot to pick the inspection component from a batch as well as manipulate the component between the X-ray source and detector for scanning. These technologies create a reliable and repeatable process which is integrated into NSI efX-DR production module in order to streamline the production process and enhance part traceability and serialization in manufacturing workflow.

These developments have been established due to the growing demand by NSI customers for automation fueled by the increasing use of DR and CT as a quality tool in the production environment. As this trend advances, integration into the manufacturing process is becoming a necessity as manufacturers shift their quality requirements to require an increased volume of nondestructive inspection. Specific applications considered during development include weld inspection of complex 3-dimensional geometries, compound aerospace turbine components, 3D analysis of composite structures, additive manufacturing, and casting analysis.

robotiX is designed to provide an intuitive user-interface which can be used in a variety of applications. These applications range from dedicated-use scanning scenarios, to medium-volume production, and to research and development circumstances in which a wide variety of inspections are needed for frequently changing components. This is accomplished using integrated production tools which allow component data to be automatically imported, processed, and assigned to the associated inspection results. This interface has been developed using customer input based on their existing manufacturing processes to provide quick response and increased customer performance.

In order to simplify changeover and support a wide product mix, scanning parameters may be easily configured using a pre-defined workflow which breaks each step in the process down to reusable subroutines. These subroutines can then be reprocessed in the creation of additional inspection programs to improve process flexibility and eliminate wasted time programming. The system is designed for automated component serialization data transfer on a lot or batch basis to eliminate the need to interrupt the existing process used for manufacturing. This translates into a comprehensive recipe which defines each step needed to generate the full complement of component data. This scheme is designed to simplify changeover to support a wide product mix.

robotiX is available as an option that can be added to standard models. For further flexibility at the product level, robotiX has also been developed with an accompanying modular and adaptable radiation enclosure platform. Customers have the option to select the appropriate radiation shielding energy level as well as a configurable size in the length, width, and height dimensions. To support the wide range of applications, robotiX integrates the industry’s widest range of available industrial robots from FANUC. Expansive payload and reach options augment the product offering to tailor each system to individual customer needs.

Finally, for ease of integration, the robotiX part loading module has been developed using a fenceless system to allow the user to interact with the system easily while maintaining strict compliance to the requirements of applicable robotic safety standards. Standard safety options include both area scanners and collaborative robots. The area scanner monitors speed and separation to ensure the work cell is clear when the robot is in use while the collaborative robots controls the robot speed and force to prevent work cell hazards.

With continued focus on critical manufacturing metrics such as cycle time, throughput, and yield being applied to all aspects of the production process, including quality control and component inspection, the need for expanding the scope of automation will continue to grow. North Star Imaging is committed to developing systems and standard modules such as robotiX based on customer input and feedback in order to continue to offer solutions as needs arise in the marketplace. Check back often to see additional developments related to automation and robotiX and let us know how we can expand our product offering to meet your needs.

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