Perfect code reading boosts Sony’s production efficiency

New MP3 players from a global electronics manufacturer like Sony are ­destined for a demanding consumer market and cannot be compromised in any way. In Malaysia, Sony sought a code reading and traceability solution for the PCBs for these MP3 players. This kind of product tracking is ­essential, allowing Sony to protect itself against costly recalls and product mix-ups as well as allowing for ‘damage control’ in the event of a problem

Previously, badly read codes and the resulting rejection rates were costing the company a lot of money in terms of re-work and rejected units. Their old code reading system having proved incapable of rising to the challenge, Sony in Malaysia is now using the Cognex In-Sight 5110 for code reading on PCBs destined for their new MP3 players.

100 per cent reliable read rates

Each PCB passes along a conveyer on nine production lines and is marked with a Datamatrix code containing product information in 10 characters measuring only 1mm x 1mm.

Production volume at the plant is very high at 40,000 units a day and so the reading solution deployed should guarantee a read rate of 100 per cent thus allowing the production line to work non-stop, eliminating downtime. Their existing code reading solution was clearly not up to the challenge with an average rejection rate per week of 10,000 units which was costing Sony money and was delaying time to market for an important product.

In-Sight ID reader

It is vital the serial number marked on each PCB heading for product assembly lines can be identified and tracked. If the code reader is not capable of adjusting to the product changeovers on lines a serial number can be missed and data is lost. No two read points are the same.

Sony tested different readers on the market. In the end, the only reader capable of meeting Sony’s expectations was the Cognex In-Sight 5110 ID reader. The 5110 out-performed its rivals in the following areas: Superior read rate in terms of decoding speed and sturdiness; the In-Sight 5110 also offers new perspective distortion support which ensures reliable reading even when at an angle to the PCBs; the job is stored in the reader in such a way as to attempt reading several times using different exposure values - adapting itself to the surface of the PCB, thus increasing the chances of successful reading; no reader retraining required for a product change; flexible multiple communication channels; versatile data gathering – essential for factory database; and the In-Sight 5110 can also ensure reliable OCR (original character recognition).

Saving almost $5,000 a week

In-Sight 5110 ID readers are now installed on nine production lines replacing the existing readers. Code reading time is now two seconds per read whereas competitors took over 10 seconds to provide a reading. Code reading success rate has increased from 95 per cent to 100 per cent.

With a 100 per cent successful code reading rate, the production line no longer has to stop as a result of a badly read code. There is no longer the need to stop the line for product repositioning or focus adjustment. These factors are already saving Sony about $5,000 a week, (this calculation comes from the five per cent failure rate within 200,000 units per week based on a unit cost of RM1.5). The company expects a return on its investment within 10 months.

TK Tan, staff engineer at Sony, Penang says: “The fact that we have improved our code reading times and increased our success rate to 100 per cent saves us valuable time and boosts our production efficiency – we hope to implement these vision solutions elsewhere for other OCR applications”.

This track and trace software will be demonstrated on the MultiPix Imaging Stand No. B58 at the PPMA exhibition taking place between 27th to 29th September at the NEC, Birmingham.

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