Converging X-Ray and AI technologies to improve product quality
Founded in 2008, Creative Electron set out on one mission – “to build the best X-ray inspection systems in the world.” Known as “The X-ray people,” Creative Electron operates in a variety of industries, including the highly competitive electronic manufacturing industry.
The general public may be surprised by the depth of applications for X-Ray. David Kruidhof, VP of Sales at Creative Electron, attributes this to the long-time association of X-Ray with a hospital setting and that association has given rise to a misperception that X-Ray technology is inherently dangerous or expensive. In a hospital setting, special care is taken to reduce radiation exposure, which includes investing in expensive equipment and training. However, in other contexts such as manufacturing, Creative Electron builds a contained X-ray cabinet that strictly limits the amount of radiation allowed to exit the cabinet, which also reduces the associated costs.
Although the use of X-Ray imaging may seem niche in the world of electronics manufacturing, its use is becoming more widely adopted. In any situation where electronics brands can gain value from inspecting hidden product elements, X-Ray inspection becomes an interesting consideration. For example, Puffco, maker of cannabis consumption devices and accessories, used a blind assembly process on a new consumer vaping product wherein traditional inspection techniques becomes inefficient or impossible.
Puffco sought to capture X-Ray images from various angles of their upcoming product and ultimately ingest X-Ray images into the Instrumental platform where failure analysis, root causing, and continuous monitoring can ensure zero escapes. For Puffco, taking these additive steps to ensure quality lines up with their drive to “work incessantly in pursuit of consumption perfection.” After a successful proof of concept led by Tobias Harrison-Noonan, Director of Business Development and Solutions at Instrumental, and Kruidhof representing Creative Electron, the customer plans to deploy this integrated solution.
Practical and effective
Both Creative Electron and Instrumental pride themselves on delivering value at an unexpected rate. The speed of evaluating this proof of concept demonstrated to be another difference-maker on top of gaining insights previously unattainable. Depending on logistics and the nature of the product, Creative Electron can collect X-Ray imaging within one to two days. Within another 24 hours, customers can begin running Instrumental’s AI, resulting in anomaly detection (of known and unknown) issues in about ten minutes.
Beyond speed, there were a number of practical requirements in mind for Harrison-Noonan and Instrumental Solutions Architect, William Greenbaum during their search for an X-Ray hardware partner. They determined that Creative Electron’s TruView™ Cube X-ray Inspection System would be a great fit for Instrumental. Harrison-Noonan notes, “The cube seemed approachable with an affordable price, small line space, and easy setup. Traditional X-Ray machines, which can cost upwards of $500,000 USD, are massive and meant for placement inside a lab. The small form of the Creative Electron cube makes it attractive for our customers that may want to drop it in the assembly line to conduct 100% inspection.”
The magical convergence of X-Ray and AI technologies
Harrison-Noon shares, “The first time a customer witnesses the instant convergence of X-Ray imaging and autonomous AI is a great moment. Validating the ease of use remotely and seeing the technology seamlessly coming together feels like a winning moment for all.”
Kruidhof adds, “Instrumental meets a real customer need by gathering data from throughout the entire supply chain to drive failure analysis and continuous improvement. We’re also providing valuable product data from our X-Ray imaging systems. By showing customers what’s inside of each unit, they’re able to ensure the proper placement, and functionality, of each element.”
Instrumental customers incorporating X-Ray imaging into their programs can gain:
- Real-time feedback in the factory powered by Instrumental AI
- View traceable X-rays of their device remotely anytime, anywhere
- Leverage the rest of the Instrumental platform to tie in the X-rays with product data to accelerate failure analysis and correlations.
- Minimal implementation overhead, easy drop-in systems.
“The exciting part about X-Ray imaging is being able to correlate with test data and finding correlations with other parts of the line,” says Harrison-Noonan. “Accepting and supporting additional data types is something that’s on our roadmap. We started with images, now we support X-Rays, later, it could be 3D height maps or other measurements for capturing the depth of an object. We’re also exploring some applications with CT scans with Creative Electron for another customer.” CT scans represent a type of 3D X-Ray and include even more data than standard X-Rays. Harrison-Noonan adds, “These new use cases continue to validate the need for more and better data.”
The partnership with Instrumental has opened up new customer segments for Creative Electron. Where Creative Electron has served brands producing mission-critical products that must meet the highest quality standards, conducting successful pilots with Instrumental customers has influenced Creative Electron to expand to more consumer brands who are willing to take extra measures to ensure quality.
As Creative Electron continues to dispel perceived barriers to adoption, one thing is for sure – the fascination you feel when looking at an X-Ray image is immediate and undeniable. Kruidhof remarks, “X-Ray reveals the mystery. For instance, when you look at a high-end speaker, you see plastic and netting but when you scan the speaker with X-Ray imaging, you get to see what’s inside and intriguing insights are revealed. Upon viewing rotating X-ray footage, your brain starts to map the 3D model.”