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Seeing the unseeable – winning the war against bubbles

Contributed by: Aaron Alberts

From auto parts to running shoes, manufacturers constantly battle one chronic quality issue when it comes to adhesive and sealant dispensing on a production line. 

Even the tiniest air bubbles can ruin the integrity of a seal or adhesive. On a car wind-shield, engine or medical device, a poor seal can put consumer safety at risk and lead to high cost recalls.

Identifying bubbles from dispense applications with production data

Data is the key to tackling this challenge. The question is how do you collect, manage and analyze all the data you need, to detect and correct errors as they arise, prevent those errors from happening again, and prove quality compliance to customers and regulators?

An automotive electronics manufacturer in the U.S. Midwest looked for a better way tackle this issue on a new production line for engine fuel control modules. These modules are critical to engine performance. The dispense operation must be highly accurate, precise and repeatable. Bubbles, any bubbles, can cause seal failure.

The manufacturer wanted something better than a conventional vision system. A vision system can only record bead quality, provided the lighting is just right so it has a clear image of the bead. Vision systems are also expensive, they’re difficult to set up and they can’t detect trapped air.

The manufacturer turned to Graco, a leader in fluid handling products and systems (not to be confused with that other Graco that makes baby products). Graco, in turn, came to Sciemetric in search of a more reliable dispense monitoring technology to couple with its dispense equipment. 

The result was a new and more economical process monitoring system for dispensing, as well as a new industry partnership – Graco now offers Sciemetric technology exclusively on their dispense gasketing systems. This new system can do what costlier vision systems can’t detect miniscule air bubbles and bead errors in real-time and advising whether these issues will compromise the final product. It can also monitor and record data about each dispense, including pressure achieved and decay failures, average, maximum and minimum pressure, time of dispense and other dispense information. 

The result? 

The manufacturer can collect much more reliable process information and track dispensing with a level of precision that was previously impossible. In fact, the new system proved itself a useful diagnostic tool for the manufacturer’s entire dispense operation.

During setup of the new manufacturing line, engineers were able to determine that a problem with the system dispensing too slowly was the fault of a programmable logic controller which communicates over an Ethernet protocol. It took just 30 minutes to trouble-shoot the problem, versus several weeks.

When it comes to tackling bubbles, a conventional vision system simply can’t compete with a sensor based system that ties into sophisticated big data management and analytics tools.