ARCHIVED - Tracking Every Move
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November 06, 2006— Ottawa, Ontario
We take for granted that our cars are built on an assembly line, using automated machinery, or with assembly line operators using handheld automated tools. But what happens if a mistake is made or equipment doesn't work properly? If an assembly tool is not functioning properly or an assembly line operator erred and missed a bolt, or torqued the wrong bolt, there is no reliable way to catch the error. Hopefully, in-plant testing would find the problem, which means the product has to go through the repair bay. In the worst case, the product would be shipped to the customer and either be re-called or cause an injury.
This worst case scenario causes a lot of sleepless nights for process engineers. It also caused the designers and programmers at Radix Controls Inc. of Windsor, Ontario to develop a slick solution.
|By monitoring the tool target using cameras, the exact yaw, pitch and roll of the torque gun head can be computed in x-y-z space using triangulation software running on the system's host PC.|
Let's take a car engine as an example. A typical car engine includes about 30 to 40 bolts. These are inserted and torqued on the assembly line by an automated nutrunner system. If a problem arises, such as the nutrunner malfunctioning, the engine has to be removed from the production process and corrected at a manual station. All bolts would have to be individually removed, put back, and then each one torqued with the aid of a manual torque gun. The torque gun counts the number of bolts it touches but does not differentiate between bolts, meaning that a bolt could be missed if another was torqued twice in error.
Enter Radix Controls.
Founded in 1994, Radix Controls is a high technology firm specializing in software development for industrial advanced technology applications.
"Advanced industrial technologies are of paramount importance for manufacturers, who must extract valuable information from their complex production environments," says company founder and President, Ross Rawlings. "Radix Controls is able to meet manufacturer's needs in these areas with custom software development, as well as with our packaged software tools and applications."
In 2004, after various clients expressed a need to track their automated tools for the purpose of quality control and verification, Radix Controls experimented with several technologies and found the answer within their portfolio of software products. They developed the concept for Tool Tracker and took it to the Canadian Innovation Centre, through the National Research Council Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), to conduct market research to validate the needs of the marketplace. The results confirmed Radix Controls' instincts and full scale development began.
Tool Tracker uses a camera to watch a target attached to an automated tool to track the position and orientation of that tool in a given three-dimensional workspace. In addition to tracking the tool, Tool Tracker also verifies a specific sequence of tasks has been completed and communicates results with high levels of consistency and incredible accuracy in the sub-millimeter range.
Today, Radix Control's Tool Tracker has been successfully sold to a client in the automotive industry and has been recently nominated for a Henry Ford Technology Award for technological advancement. There is also interest within the Aviation & Packaging industries to apply Tool Tracker on their manufacturing lines.
In 1999, Radix Controls was recognized by Microsoft Corporation as one of the Top 75 Fastest Growing Independent Software Vendors in North America, placing their company in a peerless group of fast track innovators. Radix Controls has provided advanced technology solutions to a wide range of manufacturers since 1994, including Ford Motor Company, Toyota, John Deere, Proctor & Gamble and Cadbury.
From 2001 to 2005 Radix grew from 21 to 34 employees and annual sales increased 225%. Over these years, NRC-IRAP has helped Radix with marketing and technical challenges and provided financial assistant for internship projects that resulted in adding three engineers to Radix's technical team.
"NRC-IRAP has made a significant contribution to the success of Radix Controls," confirmed Rawlings, "both from the perspective of financially supporting our drive to advance the application of technology to the plant floor, as well as with the advice and support of our local Industrial Technology Advisor. His understanding of our market and our goals have been invaluable."
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