a new way
is at hand
BY HANK HOGAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Sa thousand words – or a thousand
dollars. That’s the case for CGI, a
company based in Eden Prairie, Minn.,
which sells proprietary inspection
systems for small, plastic injection-ometimes a picture is worth more than
molded parts. CGI’s systems slice through
these parts and take high-resolution pictures, repeating the process to capture a
complete three-dimensional image. That
data provides vital information about the
manufacturing process, which is why
businesses all over the world buy the
company’s inspection tools.
But the usefulness of the data depends
on the quality of the cut, and that involves
trade-offs. A diamond-tipped cutter, for
instance, might yield a cleaner slice than
a more standard cutter, but it does so at
greater cost. CGI president Craig Crump
noted that conveying the difference between those cuts is now easier, thanks
to handheld microscopes.
“You can describe it verbally, but you
don’t capture it nearly as well as you do
with one of these little handheld devices,”
That’s just one example of what handheld microscopes are being used for. For
those who need a close-up look at something away from the lab, the solution may
be at hand – literally. Thanks to advances
in imagers, algorithms and optics, handheld microscopes are now available that
allow the inspection of components, circuit boards, coins, stamps and skin, meeting the needs of industry and consumers.
These devices likely won’t replace conventional microscopes, but already they
have proved to be useful. A look at offerings from Bodelin Technologies of Lake
Oswego, Ore., Keyence Corp. of Osaka,
Japan, and Celestron LLC of Torrance,
Calif., reveals where handheld microscopy
is now and where it’ll be in the future.
With the click of a button
According to CGI’s Crump, the company uses the Bodelin ProScope only for
qualitative images. Actual inspection data
is captured by digital cameras at a resolution of 1000 pixels per linear inch. The
handheld microscope, in contrast, enables
easy capture and e-mailing of illustrative
images to customers worldwide, thereby
showing how one cutting option compares
to another. The fact that the handheld microscope captures a visible image is important, since the high-resolution cameras
used for the actual 3-D reconstruction
also image across the same range.
The ProScope has been around for a
decade and has experienced changes in its
usage patterns and audience, said Bodelin
director of sales and marketing Peter
White. It originally started off in science
education but has since found a home in
manufacturing and law enforcement.
Those last two categories now account for
the bulk of sales.
“Interpol is one of our customers,” said
White, who noted that the FBI and military intelligence likewise use the device
A Bodelin ProScope handheld microscope captures
a close-up of a part being sliced by a CGI plastic
parts inspection system. The image from the
microscope illustrates the quality of the cut.
Image courtesy of CGI.