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Instant Error Detection With In-Line Profilers


Surface defects derive from materials processing and product manufacturing. In-line surface quality inspection ensures the tightest quality control of the end products. The Nanovea 3D Non-Contact Profilometers utilize chromatic confocal technology with a unique capability to determine the roughness of a sample with-out contact. Multiple profiler sensors can be installed to monitor the roughness and texture of different areas of the product at the same time. The roughness threshold calculated in real-time by the analysis software serves as a fast and reliable pass/fail tool.


In this study, the Nanovea roughness inspection conveyor system equipped with a point sensor is used to inspect the surface roughness of the acrylic and sandpaper samples. We showcase the capacity of Nanovea non-contact profilometer in providing fast and reliable surface inspection in a production line in real-time.


The conveyor profilometer system can operate in two modes, namely Trigger Mode and Continuous Mode. As illustrated in Figure 2, the surface roughness of the samples are measured when they are passing under the optical profiler heads under the Trigger Mode. In comparison, Continuous Mode provides non-stop measurement of the surface roughness on the continuous sample, such as metal sheet and fabric. Multiple optical profiler sensors can be installed to monitor and record the roughness of different sample areas.


During the real-time roughness inspection measurement, the pass and fail alerts are displayed on the software windows as shown in Figure 4 and Figure 5. When the roughness value is within the given thresholds, the measured roughness is highlighted in green color. However, the highlight turns red when the measured surface roughness is out of the range of the set threshold values. This provides a tool for the user to determine the quality of a product’s surface finish. In the following sections, two types of samples, e.g. Acrylic and Sandpaper are used to demonstrate the Trigger and Continuous Modes of the Inspection system.

Trigger Mode: Surface inspection of the Acrylic Sample

A series of Acrylic samples are aligned on the conveyor belt and move under the optical profiler head as shown in Figure 1. The false color view in Figure 6 shows the change of the surface height. Some of the mirror-like finished Acrylic samples had been sanded to create a rough surface texture as shown in Figure 6b.

As the Acrylic samples move at a constant speed under the optical profiler head, the surface profile is measured as shown in Figure 7 and Figure 8. The roughness value of the measured profile is calculated at the same time and compared to the threshold values. The red fail alert is launched when the roughness value is over the set threshold, allowing users to immediately detect and locate the defective product on the production line.

Continuous Mode: Surface Inspection of the sandpaper sample

Surface Height Map, Roughness Distribution Map, and Pass / Fail Roughness Threshold Map of the sandpaper sample surface as shown in Figure 9. The sandpaper sample has a couple of higher peaks in the used part as shown in the surface height map. The different colors in the pallet of Figure 9C represent the roughness value of the local surface. The Roughness Map exhibits a homogeneous roughness in the intact area of the sandpaper sample, while the used area is highlighted in dark blue color, indicating the reduced roughness value in this region. A Pass/Fail roughness threshold can be set up to locate such regions as shown in Figure 9D.

As the sandpaper continuously passes under the in-line profiler sensor, the real-time local roughness value is calculated and recorded as plotted in Figure 10. The pass/fail alerts are displayed on the software screen based on the set roughness threshold values, serving as a fast and reliable tool for quality control. The product surface quality in the production line is inspected in situ to discover defective areas in time.


In this application, we have shown the Nanovea Conveyor Profilometer equipped with an optical non-contact profiler sensor works as a reliable in-line quality control tool effectively and efficiently.

The inspection system can be installed in the production line to monitor the surface quality of the products in situ. The roughness threshold works as a dependable criteria to determine the surface quality of the products, allowing users to notice the defective products in time. Two inspection modes, namely Trigger Mode and Continuous Mode, are provided to meet the requirement for inspection on different types of products.

The data shown here represent only a portion of the calculations available in the analysis software. Nanovea Profilometers measure virtually any surface in fields including Semiconductor, Microelectronics, Solar, Fiber, Optics, Automotive, Aerospace, Metallurgy, Machining, Coatings, Pharmaceutical, Biomedical, Environmental and many others.


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