Consistent inspection processes are not only the key to high-quality products, but also to the sustainability and success of a manufacturing company. To make quality assurance more accurate, faster and more efficient, a fully automated process is a possibility. One impact in this respect is the targeted use of artificial intelligence (AI). Fujitsu and VisiConsult, a specialist in industrial X-ray systems, are working together in this direction.
Christof Schleidt, Project Manager at Fujitsu, and Lennart Schulenburg, Managing Director of VisiConsult, explain the objectives of this partnership and discuss the benefits for the customer.
Optimum combination of skills
Christof Schleidt: You are experts and market leaders in industrial X-ray systems, we are specialists in IT integration, AI and visual inspection. How can we optimally combine our competencies so that the customer and the market as a whole benefit greatly?
Lennart Schulenburg: In my view, our two companies are like sparring partners: we complement each other's skills, solutions and technologies perfectly, and this translates into lasting added value. With our automated X-ray systems, we have digitized and automated the non-destructive testing (NDT) process. With high-resolution digital X-ray detectors, data on the images generated is important. With you, we're now taking the next step towards Industry 4.0. Thanks to your AI expertise, the next step from standard image processing to automated image evaluation will be possible. In this way, together we can help our customers increase their detection probabilities and productivity.
Christof Schleidt: What's more, through the network via cloud connection and the use of AI, it's much simpler and closer to the process to obtain detection results. You are in contact with industrial sectors where the highest quality standards are implemented. I'm thinking of critical components such as suspension in the automotive sector, or turbine blades in the aerospace industry. In these sectors, there's no room for error in terms of algorithm accuracy and detection rates. We appreciate your years of experience in non-destructive testing and your focus on industry.
Successful use cases
Lennart Schulenburg: Your offer complements our in-depth expertise in AI, intelligent technologies for visual inspection and fundamental market knowledge. For example, we have already launched two pilot projects in the field of weld inspection, with a producer of welded pipelines and a manufacturer of thin-walled titanium welded tubes for the aerospace sector. Both are essential to safety in their areas of use. Both hydraulic lines in aircraft and pipelines need to be watertight, to guarantee safety in use and to rule out any safety problems.
Christof Schleidt: And with these successful use cases, we're showing that our approach isn't just bland theory. Instead, we bring tangible, practical use cases along the way. Our main objective is the seamless integration of AI into non-destructive testing applications. To ensure that our customers are supported and their needs are met, have you developed a deployment strategy.
Lennart Schulenburg: We follow a four-stage system: select-discover-qualify-execute. In the first stage, we offer customers the opportunity to be a pilot customer by actively participating in the program. In the "prove" stage, we work closely with the customer to draw up a proof of concept, examining the technical feasibility of the project. Then we move on to the "qualify" stage. Because we operate in a safety-critical environment, we have to qualify the algorithms carefully. We have to demonstrate the accuracy of the results in relation to the high sanction criteria. Finally, we have the "execute" stage, where the system goes live.
Christof Schleidt: I think this process gives customers an idea of what they can expect from the technology, so they can decide whether or not to invest further.
Lennart Schulenburg: Yes, precisely. And we're showing that it's not only technically feasible, but also commercially profitable. The manufacturer saves money and has a safe, cost-effective technology at his disposal. The long-term goal is a universal, continuous automated evaluation system.
Christof Schleidt: In addition, there are many other tangible benefits for our customers. Our cooperative approach to the subject simplifies the process, which would be an enormous energy drain for a single company. Managers would have to talk to many different contacts, such as AI specialists and experts in non-destructive materials testing. In the real world, this would mean a high investment that would not pay off for most companies. We take this quest on board and offer an ingenious solution that's easy to implement. Another significant advantage is fast, accurate defect recognition, which was not possible with traditional manual or rule-based evaluation systems. In addition, this will reduce costs, as AI-based quality inspection minimizes significant errors in safety-critical products.
Lennart Schulenburg: Beyond that, we can automate the inspection process and thus considerably increase productivity in the high-value chain. In addition, parallel communication with regulatory authorities simplifies the process for the customer. Because when AI technology is deployed operationally, there are a number of certification guidelines to comply with. So the customer benefits from our expertise in both AI and visual inspection, and from our 26 years' experience in non-destructive testing and market leadership in X-ray systems.
Looking to the future
Christof Schleidt: I believe that in the future we will also be combining our competencies, focusing on the benefits for our customers. Fujitsu and VisiConsult are capable of revolutionizing the market. I'm thinking of an innovative way of optimizing the process and making it more transparent. One objective could be, for example, communication between operational centers such as a casting unit and the evaluation module in real time via X-ray technology.
Lennart Schulenburg: In addition, it would be practical, when delivering inferior materials, to give direct and timely feedback to the supply chain. In addition, in the future, alongside long-term X-ray technology, there will be various other non-destructive testing methods, such as ultrasonic, eddy current or magnetic particle evaluation.
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