Prettl Electronics puts its faith in the Smart Klaus assistance system for its THT mounting

Faultless manual manufacturing processes with full documentation

The latest member of the Prettl team at the Radeberg site is a digital one. The Smart Klaus, the camera-based assistance system from Optimum datamanagement solutions GmbH, helps the team at Prettl electronics with the task of manual THT mounting.

Managing Director Miroslaw Dziuba and his team gave a lot of thought to choosing the right system.

Requirements of the assistance system

"For us, incorporating digital processes into production is a priority. Only then can we offer our customers an efficiently manufactured, premium quality product now and in the future," explains Quentin Zapf, Head of Mechanical and Process Technology. That's why Prettl asks a lot of an assistance system:

  1. The employees should be guided through the mounting process.
  2. The workpieces should be inspected for defects in real time. 
  3. Work instructions are to change from paper form to a digital system with teach-in capabilities.
  4. Full documentation to provide evidence of faultless manufacture.
  5. All products should be manufactured to the same quality standards, and can be reproduced and traced. 
  6. The work required to train new employees should be reduced.

After much consideration, they chose the Smart Klaus from Optimum. The camera-based, cognitive assistance system from the Karlsruhe-based firm uses camera technology and intelligent industrial image processing in combination with database management to support Industry 4.0 workers on manual workstations within a digital production environment.

The Smart Klaus stands out from the crowd

In order to find the assistance system that best met the company's requirements, Prettl also tested equipment from three other manufacturers alongside the Smart Klaus. These systems should assist in assembling different modules with a varying number of THT components. On average, the systems were tested with a mounting and inspection surface of 520 cm² including 31 THT components, which equates to approx. 5% of all components that are assembled on the Prettl shopfloor. 

The Smart Klaus performed significantly better than the competition in almost every test. It consistently identified a large number of components in different sizes. And it even registered the correct polarity of the components without any difficulty. This is a real feat, because – especially with small parts – details are harder to identify. "An impressive performance," concedes Quentin Zapf. "The components often only have small notches or lines on them, which don't stand out that well against their background. And the polarity markings often look very similar and use colour tones like white or grey, which are hard to distinguish between in optical terms."

The technology behind it all

Alongside an advanced image processing software, the Smart Klaus utilises a high-end camera system. The system used at Prettl features two different cameras. The first is an 18-megapixel camera that delivers the perfect combination of speed and precision. For more detailed pictures, the second camera comes into play. This has an impressive resolution of 42 megapixels and enables the Smart Klaus to recognise even the smallest features on the components.

Worker guidance: Every step of the way to the finished product

Besides identifying individual parts, worker guidance is the most important job of the Smart Klaus. Wolfgang Mahanty, Director of Sales at Optimum, explains how the assistance system works: "The various manufacturing processes are stored in the Smart Klaus – in digital form as step-by-step instructions." All the criteria required to inspect each work step is also saved in the system. This way, the Smart Klaus works as a kind of digital work instruction. It is constantly referencing the current work assignment and the latest inspection specifications in order to assist employees both in the performance of regular production tasks and in learning new work steps. 

The worker is guided through the production process by a screen and the workpiece is continuously inspected throughout the process. If a work step is incomplete or has been completed incorrectly, the Smart Klaus will highlight this so that the issue can be rectified there and then. And when everything is correct, there is also a message to that effect then the programme automatically switches to the next work step.

To track the successful assembly through subsequent production processes, an additional documentation module is available as an optional extra. This records and saves all the values measured during assembly and automatically documents the camera images.

Flexible applications

Both the software and the hardware are designed to allow the Smart Klaus to be used in different departments. The image recognition can be applied to goods in and goods out, worker guidance or quality control. In the event of capacity bottlenecks, it can quickly and effortlessly relocate tasks and orders to other facilities. "All in all, the Smart Klaus performed best in our evaluation. So we decided to implement the assistance system from Optimum at our facility in Radeberg," explains Zapf.

Traceability increases reliability and reduces workload

At Prettl, the Smart Klaus is integrated not only into the production environment, but into the IT environment too. The assistance system connected seamlessly with the company's internal Traceability System Compass. "It took just one day to programme the data conversion into a format that we can use. And we have even gone a step further by integrating two automatic barcode readers. This firstly selects the correct programme and secondly links our job order number directly with the individual number of the assembly and with the time stamp of the passed inspection by the Smart Klaus before it is then added to the database. A real time saver when it comes to documenting the work steps," reports Quentin Zapf.

To meet Prettl's exact needs, requirements and wishes, the Smart Klaus is being constantly fine tuned in close collaboration. "It has set us on a really good path, and it serves as a learning curve for our colleagues at the other sites too. Because we intend to roll out the Smart Klaus there in future too," explains Zapf.