Looking Within: Schneider Electric Turns To Its Own Ecosystem of Partners To Solve Problems

By Annie Gomes -

Cognex smart cameras deliver a host of benefits at Schneider Electric’s Smart Factory in Plovdiv.

The ongoing trend of the miniaturisation of electronic components enables manufacturers like Schneider Electric to build smaller, lighter, faster, and more efficient devices and systems.

Throughout its Smart Factory in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the smallest components often play a large role in determining the effectiveness and quality of more than 4 million products per month. The factory is a vital manufacturing hub in Europe, supplying seven distribution centres in over 28 countries with electrical distribution and protection products for people and businesses.

But with miniaturised electrical components come various manufacturing challenges. For example, soldering can be a very complicated process that requires precision. In the end, solder defects, such as cracks, voids, or weak bond strength, can impact the performance of a product, ultimately resulting in customer dissatisfaction.

It is typical for soldering inspection systems to use high-resolution cameras and machine vision to scan through electronics components, enabling manufacturers to see the areas surrounding solder joints and ensure quality.

However, according to Martin Yordanov, Method and Maintenance manager at Schneider Electric Plovdiv Plant, this type of inspection has been challenging at the Plovdiv plant using conventional machine vision. So, when the time came to find a partner that could provide a solution to improve the soldering inspection process, they turned to its own ecosystem of partners, Schneider Electric Exchange.

Communities such as Exchange help facilitate the types of partnerships that can tackle industry issues through co-innovation. Together, collaborative partners come up with joint solutions that solve tough business challenges. Additionally, users of Exchange can capitalize on EcoStruxure-compatible IoT innovation for automation and energy management.

“From Exchange, we communicate with our partners in a very reliable and effective way. We share ideas and best practices in our area,” says Martin Yornadov. “We decided to work with Cognex because they are a well-known partner of ours,” he adds.

For the last 20 years, Cognex has supplied machine vision and traceability systems to Schneider Electric plants worldwide, according to Christophe Denis, Global Account Manager at Cognex.

A central solution to improve production

A primary challenge at the Plovdiv factory revolved around automation, according to Yordanov.

“It was important that, together with Schneider Electric applications and Cognex, we created a central solution that helps the effective production in the Plovdiv factory,” says Martin Yordanov. “Cognex skillfully developed solutions applicable to EcoStruxure applications.”

Since Cognex smart cameras can be embedded in a large variety of industrial protocols, they can communicate with any type of PLC or external system, according to Denis. “It’s a very versatile tool that we can integrate into any automation environment.”

“With Cognex, we managed to develop a few solutions in our process, that helped us produce better quality products,” says Yordanov. As an example, he mentions Cognex’s smart camera In-Sight D900 with integrated deep learning technology which helped the plant improve the management of the soldering process.

“All the intelligence is embedded inside the camera, meaning that it doesn’t need any external computer or controller to work on the system,” says Denis. “With deep learning technology embedded, it equips users with the ability to combine artificial intelligence with a comprehensive range of conventional machine vision algorithms.”

Christophe Denis explains that deep learning solutions in their smart camera offerings learn by example.

“A neural network is a program that trains by providing some images or examples of what is a good part and what is a bad part. And based on that experience, the system can automatically separate good parts from bad parts,” he says.

“With the development of deep learning inspection solutions, the applications at the plant are much easier to solve with very accurate results,” says Martin Yordanov. “It helps us deliver quality products to our customers on time.”

By improving visibility into production lines and automating the inspection process, the factory managed to raise clients’ satisfaction with ready-to-use products and minimal losses throughout the manufacturing process, according to Martin Yordanov.

“We expect to save 40,000 euro each year and we lowered our waste to insignificant levels,” he says.

Cognex has several of its solutions listed on the Exchange platform of Schneider Electric and will soon add others, including the In-Sight 2800 vision system launched earlier this year.

“This new product also embeds deep learning technology, but differently. It is easy to use and deploy and doesn’t require any specific skill to set up, providing the power of deep learning to any user,” he says.

For more information about Cognex, please click here

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