Recently, non-contact sensor technologies are more and more often used for quality inspection tasks as well as for process monitoring in manufacturing. As a matter of fact, recent advancements in laser scanners and machine vision systems provide the potential to greatly improve the performance of Statistical Process Control (SPC) approaches. In this paper, a PC- based machine vision system, which provides rapid measurement of freeform geometric features, is presented. The measuring system is based on appropriate hardware and software modules. The hardware module consists of a laser scanning device and setup fixtures that can provide proper location and orientation for the part to be measured. The software module generates optimal scan plans so that the scanning operation can be performed accordingly. Furthermore, measurements for each geometric feature are automatically stored by the software module in order to perform on-line statistical analysis. The system described in this paper has been designed for on-line data acquisition, quality inspection, and statistical monitoring of actual manufacturing processes. To these aims, a user-friendly, menu-driven graphical interface has been implemented in order to give the operator an effective overview of the process state (either in-control or out-of-control). A real case study, related to the production of stamped metal panels in the automotive industry, is described.
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