Material Handling

X-Ray Counters and You

X-ray counters are growing in popularity - get a quick introduction to these pieces of equipment!

In less than 10 years, X-ray counters have gone from an obscure new piece of technology to an important part of many electronics manufacturing operations. These machines offer highly accurate counts in seconds, aiding in the management of inventory levels in all different kinds of operations. In this post we will offer a quick, high-level introduction to X-ray counters and what they can do for you.

Operating an X-Ray Counter

X-ray counting your parts is a fast and simple process that beings when a package of components, like an SMT reel, is inserted into the machine. An X-ray image of the package is taken, which is then fed into a pattern recognition algorithm. The machine's software counts each individual package that can be seen on the X-ray image, and provides a count. This entire process takes less than 10 seconds, and provides accuracy of greater than 99%.

Overall features will vary from system to system. Some systems allow users to count multiple packages at once. Some systems implement machine learning to get better at identifying small or odd-shaped components over time. The one common limitation is that these machines can only count packages in one "layer". This means you can't stack multiple reels on top of each other, as the individual components will be obscured in the resulting image.

Communicating Counts

Once the counting process is complete, what happens to the count? The next step in the process depends on a number of factors like different features of particular machines and different manufacturer operations and processes. One common approach is to print a label with the new count, either in human-readable format, embedded in a 1D/2D barcode, or both. The barcode approach allows this count to be easily entered into any other system with a quick scan.

Counts can also be sent to other systems, like smart material handling systems, ERPs/MRPs, or MES systems. This communication can take place in a variety of ways, like with file sharing or with web services. Check out some of our other blog posts on how different systems integrate with each other.

Different Workflows for Different Operations

Different manufacturing facilities have distinct processes and needs, and X-ray counters can be adapted to fit these unique requirements in order to fit into nearly any operation. Some manufacturers employ X-ray counters as a replacement for manual counting during inventory audits. Some opt to count every package after a production run before it is returned to storage. Others use systems that provide a notification when it is time to count a package, like when the estimated package quantity drops below a certain threshold or when a package has been used a specific number of times in production. 

Final Thoughts

In SMT manufacturing, X-ray counters have provided huge benefits to every type of operation, including high inventory accuracy, reduced labor, and reduced human errors. These benefits allow for improved inventory management and an overall increase in process efficiency. Feel free to get in touch, and to learn about how Inovaxe's Smart Storage Platform can integrate with X-ray counters (and anything else!)

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