When plating precision electronics components, quality and consistency are mission critical factors. A core aspect of any quality assurance program is the need to inspect completed parts, measuring them against the customer’s requirements and applicable standards. Failure to do so could cause expensive challenges that could potentially outweigh the cost-saving benefits of reel-to-reel plating. This is particularly true when plating selectively with precious metals.
With conventional inspection methods, true random sampling of components in a continuous manufacturing process is impossible. For the more traditional approach, reel-to-reel plating is audited by using samples taken at the beginning or end of a reel. This helps keep splicing the product to a minimum, which aids downstream operations such as forming and over molding. Random defects can go undetected leading to large expensive rejects with little to no information on containment. This can be disastrous, specifically for the automotive industry. So, the old methods are no longer good enough to properly conform to customer’s quality requirements.
Thankfully, a fast and accurate inspection method now exists: the online vision system. Using one with an audible alarm allows for defect identification in real-time without having to stop the plating process. A properly programmed system could detect stamping defects or the skewing of pins that might be caused during the plating process, even the slightest deflections. A simple black and white system can immediately identify and alert you of these problems.
For more demanding requirements, color vision systems deliver additional capabilities. For example, they can be programmed to look for staining or to monitor plating locations. Precise and consistent material deposit only in designated areas is very important, particularly as stamped parts get smaller and dimensions become more critical. If critical dimensions are starting to wander, corrections could be made in real-time before the parts are out of spec.
Additional considerations are required to aid with remediation and overall continuous improvement initiatives. For instance, adding a barcode scanner and creating a digital record of each defect is essential to accurate defective product isolation. The bar code scan can identify the reel in question and the recorded images can be reviewed before shipment. This gives confidence that defect-free work is being shipped. These records are essential for the quality assurance program. They provide critical images that show the defects and data on when the defect started and when it was corrected. Without his data accurate containment is improbable and can result in expensive recalls.
In summary, a vision inspection system on a plating line allows for 100% product inspection, it takes the human element out of the process and compiles data which is beneficial for troubleshooting and overall program success.