Perceptron Announces AccuSite Order Expansion (April 30, 2020)

Perceptron Announces AccuSite® Order Expansion

Proven, Accurate Solution for 100% Measurement on the Plant Floor

PLYMOUTH, Mich., April 30, 2020 — Perceptron, Inc. (NASDAQ:PRCP), a leading global provider of 3D automated measurement solutions and coordinate measuring machines, today announced a premium global automotive manufacturer has expanded their demand for in-line AccuSite systems by adding two mainline stations.

In August of 2018, Perceptron announced an order for twenty-four absolute accurate in-line systems with AccuSite to measure closure panels. Those systems have entered production and due to their success, the customer has expanded their AccuSite footprint with two multi-robot configurations: increasing the overall throughput of the manufacturer’s process control plan. The mainline systems include a two-robot station to accurately measure battery trays for Electric Vehicles, and a four-robot body-in-white station to accurately measure the complete car body. Rick Van Valkenburg, Perceptron’s Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, commented, “Our AccuSite solution has the scalability to track up to six robots with as many as ten Trackers, enabling measurement of all points on the assembly. These system orders represent our first repeat customer order for AccuSite and are a validation of the technology and the solution on the plant floor.”

The role of automated in-line measurement for process control, variation reduction, and defect containment has evolved to absolute accurate measurement. This transition increases the customers’ productivity by eliminating the need to use off-line CMMs and improves their response time from problem identification to resolution.

Van Valkenburg added, “The additional orders are a testament to Perceptron’s ability to achieve traceable absolute positional accuracy in real plant floor applications and speaks to the high level of support and customer service we provide after the initial sale.”

About Perceptron
Perceptron (NASDAQ:PRCP) develops, produces and sells a comprehensive range of automated industrial metrology products and solutions to manufacturing organizations for dimensional gauging, dimensional inspection and 3D scanning. Products include 3D machine vision solutions, robot guidance, coordinate measuring machines, laser scanning and advanced analysis software. Global automotive, aerospace and other manufacturing companies rely on Perceptron’s metrology solutions to assist in managing their complex manufacturing processes to improve quality, shorten product launch times and reduce costs. Headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan, USA, Perceptron has subsidiary operations in Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.  For more information, please visit www.perceptron.com.

Safe Harbor Statement
Certain statements in this press release may be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including the Company’s expectation relating to the ability to successfully develop, introduce and sell new products and expand into new customers and markets.  When we use words such as “target,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “estimates,” “prospects,” “outlook,” “guidance” or similar expressions, we are making forward-looking statements.  We claim the protection of the safe harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for all of our forward-looking statements. While we believe that our forward- looking statements are reasonable, you should not place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date made. Because these forward-looking statements are based on estimates and assumptions that are subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control or are subject to change, actual results could be materially different. Factors that might cause such a difference include, without limitation, the risks and uncertainties discussed from time to time in our periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including those listed in “Item 1A – Risk Factors” of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for fiscal 2019 and of our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended December 31, 2019.  Except as required by applicable law, we do not undertake, and expressly disclaim, any obligation to publicly update or alter our statements whether as a result of new information, events or circumstances occurring after the date of this report or otherwise.

Are You Ready to Automate? (April 23, 2020)

Blog 2 - 2020
Automation considerations

If you have spent any time in a major automotive plant, you understand that automation is a critical part of the infrastructure for building vehicles. Robots, conveyers, and other automation equipment are accepted at a level unseen in many industries. This automation helps auto manufacturers be more efficient, building high quality parts at rates that can boggle the mind. Today in some areas of the plant there are hardly any people as robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) transfer parts from station to station. Automation is accepted in most operations, but automation is not the first option for many when it comes to metrology and process control. This reluctance to automate has left many quality control strategies in the proverbial dark ages. Applying automation to your metrology processes can help increase measurement throughput, reduce direct labor involved in measurement, and help your overall quality improve. When deciding to automate your metrology process it is helpful to consider a few key questions prior to making the investment:

  1. Can I achieve the accuracy and repeatability necessary with an automated solution?
  2. How fast does my measurement system need to be?
  3. What uptime do I need?
  4. How flexible does my system need to be?

Can I Achieve the Accuracy and Repeatability Necessary?

Before we go into how accuracy and repeatability relate to metrology performance, one must differentiate between the two concepts as they are often misunderstood and misapplied. Simply put, a measurement device is accurate if it provides a reading that can be traced back to an accuracy standard by measuring a target like a sphere or more accurate comparison device. In metrology, accuracy is typically measured in microns, or a millionth of a meter. One example of accuracy to a standard is the tests utilized by Perceptron for our AccuSite system. AccuSite uses the ISO 10360-8 standard, ensuring their measurement device is accurate to 150 microns through the entire measurement volume. Accuracy tests like these are typically done on the plant floor as part of a system buyoff when compared to an acceptable tolerance. When you read the accuracy specification, make sure it is for the entire measurement volume, not just in the system’s sweet spot.

Repeatability is the ability for the measurement device to provide the same result within a certain error, over several measurements. Repeatability is an equally important performance criterion and is subject to the same considerations as accuracy. Automated metrology systems typically have superior repeatability performance relative to manually operated systems due to the lack of operator influence on the measurement results. It is important that you purchase a device that will be repeatable enough to handle the bulk of your metrology tasks.

When trying to determine how accurate your device needs to be, work back from the measurements you are trying to make, and look at the tolerances for those measurements. Remember that higher accuracy devices typically carry a higher price tag and may require more maintenance to keep them as accurate as they were when you first installed them — it may not pay to buy the most accurate device available.

Systems like AccuSite have been designed to provide both high repeatability and micron level accuracy, ensuring that manufacturers do not have to compromise to get the highest accuracy and repeatability in their automated system.

Speed

Speed is essential in automated metrology as it is directly related to measurement throughput, but speed impacts other factors as well. In general, speed can impact the accuracy and repeatability of a measurement system. For example, let us consider a robotic measurement system where a non-contact sensor is mounted to an industrial robot. At slow speeds, the robot will not experience as much backlash, and will produce a better measurement result. Speed the robot up and the measurement quality may degrade significantly. When specifying your system, make sure you include a requirement for accuracy and repeatability at production speeds.

Another key factor on speed is “how fast do you need to go?” The speed of your in-line automated measurement should be equal to or slightly greater than your fastest cycle time that allows you to measure all your KPI’s in real-time. When deciding on a robotic measurement solution, consider all components that influence your productivity – cycle time, robot speed, and resource time and availability.

Uptime

Uptime is related to throughput but is a standalone metric that is more closely related to performance. Uptime simply put, is the amount of time that the device is running and available to make measurements. Uptime can be impacted by more than just the overall reliability of the system. Make sure you find out what the maintenance schedule is for the equipment as you will most likely not be able to measure when you are doing the preventive maintenance on the system. For hardware and data confidence, it is critical to ask your vendor what the maintenance requirements are. Uptime in an automated in-line system is even more critical because often the line cannot run unless the measurement system is functioning – measurement system downtime can equal production downtime.

Flexibility

Flexibility is a key factor in your automation strategy and is often a main reason for automating. Today’s manufacturers are using concepts like palletized build allowing them to run multiple part types down the same production line. In industrial automation, the word flexibility is often over-used. Everyone markets their solution as “flexible” but what does flexibility truly mean? The answer to these questions is “it depends.” In fact, one could say that “flexibility is in the eye of the beholder.” Since flexibility is relative to the task and facility it will be located in, it is important that you don’t take vendor claims at face value when they position their solution as flexible — especially when they are referring to metrology solutions.

For a metrology device to be flexible it should, at a minimum, include the following attributes:

  1. Ease of programmability
  2. Ability to measure multiple parts and feature types with no targets or sprays required

Ease of programmability is a key for flexible metrology, but it is often misrepresented. Watching a well-trained and skilled technician program a part on the fly during a demo is not a real representation of programmability, neither are the initial programs completed by a vendor during the initial install. A metrology device should only be considered easy to program if the programming can be done by trained plant personnel without support from the metrology supplier. If you must call your vendor and cut a purchase order every time you need to make a change, the system is not easy to program and should not be considered flexible. The on-site technician from the vendor makes things look easy because it is their job, and they have a lot of time on task. Think about your employee that takes training at the original install, but then does not use the skill for six months. Ease of programmability ensures your employees can maximize the flexibility of the measurement system.

The ability to measure multiple parts and feature types is another key piece of the flexibility puzzle. It is imperative that you select a metrology device that will cover all your critical parts that require inspection. Of course, no system can measure everything, so you may at times need to apply the 80/20 rule to this flexibility requirement. The best way to know for sure if a system will measure what you need is to have the potential vendors measure some of your actual parts during the selection process. Allow the vendor to put together a nice presentation of the results, but also ask for the raw data. If the vendor is not eager to share the raw data with you, it should be a red flag about their solution.

Automation is a very valuable tool for modern manufacturers and every employee should look for areas to automate. Metrology is the perfect area for manufacturers to benefit from automation, but due diligence is required to make sure automation improves your overall productivity.

History of Automated In-Line Accurate Measurement (March 1, 2020)

Blog 1 - 2020
Looking Back ...

Prior to the advent of automated in-line measurement, the traditional dimensional quality control strategy in the automotive body shop relied on sampling production with off-line CMM machines in temperature-controlled measurement rooms. The metrology science and techniques for touch probe contact measurement were developed in the 1970s by metrology engineers in collaboration with the CMM companies. The quality engineers operating the CMM machines were highly trained metrology specialists. The absolute accuracy of the typical CMM machine in the automotive body shop could reach 0.010mm in a local area, but when assessed throughout the machine volume, a more typical accuracy of 0.100mm maximum error was more often the reality with dual arm configurations.

When Perceptron introduced plant floor hardened automated in-line measurement in the mid-1980s, the focus was on 100% measurement data and statistical process techniques for process variation reduction. The repeatability of the Perceptron technique was typically less than 0.100mm 3-Sigma. The systems were good for relative measurement typically achieving relative accuracy error on the order of 10% due to crudely measured relation from sensor coordinates to part coordinates.

And the debate over 100% vs sampling began. One big question was what to do with the overload of data? Another was how much is enough accuracy? Data confidence also became a big challenge as the laser optical technique applying image processing were subject to influences that affected the results differently than the CMM touch probes. The desire to have traceability of the in-line measurements drove a process of correlating and offsetting the in-line measurements relative to the CMM and this became a major effort for the quality engineers in the measurement rooms.

In the late 1980s, Perceptron invented and patented a technique for calibration of the in-line measurement stations directly into absolute coordinates. The technique made use of theodolites referenced to the part coordinate origin and a calibration target measurable by both the theodolites and the measurement sensor’s laser. The relation from sensor coordinates into absolute part coordinates was generated for each sensor and stored and applied to the measurements. This technique typically achieved absolute accuracy within 0.250mm when applied to fixed mounted sensors. This reduced the CMM correlation and offset process, but the differences between optical and touch probe techniques remained.

In the early 1990s, interest in flexible automation and measuring with robots positioning sensors, rather than fixed mounted sensors, for each checkpoint was growing—particularly in Japan and Korea. This was driven partly by the desire to run multiple models on a single line rather than single model dedicated tooling.

Error from robot repeatability and thermal drift had to be overcome, and Perceptron and Nissan developed high-accuracy measurement robots with rectilinear axes to allow straight forward linear thermal drift error correction. The measurement data was processed to optimize the numerically controlled tooling—an early instance of Industry 4.0 level of automation and information exchange. This was followed by techniques for applying kinematic model-based thermal compensation to standard industrial robots to reduce measurement error caused by robot thermal drift. Absolute accuracy was initially still achieved by reference measurement techniques at each checkpoint, such as the theodolite or eventually laser tracker, but results were never as accurate as with fixed-mounted sensors.

During the early 2000s, techniques to calibrate robots into absolute coordinates and sustain that calibration were developed and refined with a goal to simplify the use of measurement robots and increase the flexibility of the in-line measurement stations. The robot kinematic models and compensation techniques became more sophisticated and accurate. The industry-leading techniques developed by Perceptron to compensate for the absolute error of the robot TCP position and the relation from sensor coordinate to TCP coordinate to part coordinate could be relied on to achieve an absolute volumetric accuracy approaching 0.250mm. Standards were also developed and adopted for validating and comparing volumetric accuracy of the automated systems, such as the ISO 10360-8.

More recently, Perceptron has pioneered major advances such as optical measurement techniques and 3D point cloud laser sensors, such as the Helix sensor family. Helix was developed to produce measurements that exactly match the CMM touch probe techniques, virtually eliminating this long-standing correlation error factor. Perceptron developed self-learning software for compensating measurements such that plant floor temperature-induced dimensional changes of the measured part do not influence the measurement results. Software for split cycle configurations where different checkpoints are measured on different cycles have been introduced to maximize the in-line checkpoint coverage. And off-line programming techniques, including the use of Digital Twins to fully simulate automated systems, have simplified the programming and maintenance of the automated systems.

Accurate Automated Measurement Integral to Industry 4.0

White Paper
Background

Automated measurement for automotive body dimensional control was introduced in the mid-1980s by Perceptron with the invention of cost-effective, non-contact laser optical sensors and image processing techniques. This innovation combined with newly available CPUs, data storage, and graphical user interfaces enabled non-contact, 100% measurement of critical checkpoints on every assembly produced. The new automated measurement paradigm was an alternative to sampling at off-line gauges and Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs). The 100% sampling provided data insights for process control strategies 25 years before this was considered a critical element of Industry 4.0.

Surprisingly, while the use of off-line gauges in the automotive body shop has greatly diminished, the use of CMMs has persisted. To a large degree this is due to the desire to have traceability of the automated gauges, but also due to the CMMs' more dependable accuracy and flexibility. However, recent breakthroughs enabling traceable accuracy and efficient programmability of automated measurement cells has finally closed the gap. Traceable, flexible, and efficiently programmable, the new generation of automated measurement is now deployed in-line, near-line, and off-line in the body shops and at tier suppliers. In 2020, led by Perceptron, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are now realizing the full potential of automated measurement as the principal measurement standard and an integral part of their industry 4.0 initiatives.

Download Complete White Paper

ACCURATE AUTOMATED MEASUREMENT INTEGRAL TO INDUSTRY 4.0 - Final - no figures_Page_1

Perceptron Announces North American Order for Multi-Robot AccuSite (January 23, 2020)

Perceptron Announces North American Order for Multi-Robot AccuSite®

Accurate In-Line Solution for 100% Measurement of Automotive Assemblies

PLYMOUTH, Mich., January 23, 2020 — Perceptron, Inc. (NASDAQ:PRCP), a leading global provider of 3D automated metrology solutions and coordinate measuring machines, today announced receiving an order from a global automotive manufacturer for an absolute accurate in-line system to measure vehicle bodies utilizing Perceptron’s breakthrough AccuSite technology.

“The ability to use multiple trackers combined with the CMM level accuracy AccuSite offers is a game changer for our customers. Accurate, traceable, and fast measurement results on the plant floor provides the information our customers need to automate and simplify their inspection process, troubleshoot problems in real-time, and increase overall productivity,” commented Rick Van Valkenburg, Vice President Global Sales and Marketing for Perceptron.

For this project, six AccuSite Trackers are used to track four robots equipped with Helixevo sensors scanning seventy-five features on the complete Body-In-White assembly. Accusite provides the ability to automatically scan surfaces and measure discrete features at line speed to CMM level accuracies using the same sensor and system controller. The AccuSite Trackers continuously monitor and record each robot’s position, removing all robot mechanical and thermal instability from the measurement data. Results are immediately displayed at the station for containment, quality assessment and stored for future part and process analysis with Perceptron’s full suite of data analytics.

Van Valkenburg added, “Another differentiator for winning this project was Perceptron’s ability to use the customer’s pre-defined robot and communication standards instead of expecting the customer to compromise and use a ‘one size fits all’ system. Perceptron has put nearly 40 years of innovation and customer feedback designing, manufacturing, installing, and supporting non-contact metrology and robot guidance systems on the plant floor into AccuSite making it a zero-compromise solution for our customers and partners.”

About Perceptron

Perceptron (NASDAQ:PRCP) develops, produces and sells a comprehensive range of automated industrial metrology products and solutions to manufacturing organizations for dimensional gauging, dimensional inspection and 3D scanning. Products include 3D machine vision solutions, robot guidance, coordinate measuring machines, laser scanning and advanced analysis software. Global automotive, aerospace and other manufacturing companies rely on Perceptron’s metrology solutions to assist in managing their complex manufacturing processes to improve quality, shorten product launch times and reduce costs. Headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan, USA, Perceptron has subsidiary operations in Brazil, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.  For more information, please visit www.perceptron.com.

 

Safe Harbor Statement

Certain statements in this press release may be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including the Company’s expectation relating to the ability to successfully develop and introduce new products and expand into new customers and markets.  When we use words such as “target,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “estimates,” “prospects,” “outlook,” “guidance” or similar expressions, we are making forward-looking statements.  We claim the protection of the safe harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for all of our forward-looking statements. While we believe that our forward- looking statements are reasonable, you should not place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date made. Because these forward-looking statements are based on estimates and assumptions that are subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control or are subject to change, actual results could be materially different. Factors that might cause such a difference include, without limitation, the risks and uncertainties discussed from time to time in our periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including those listed in “Item 1A – Risk Factors” of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for fiscal 2019 and of our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q.  Except as required by applicable law, we do not undertake, and expressly disclaim, any obligation to publicly update or alter our statements whether as a result of new information, events or circumstances occurring after the date of this report or otherwise.