Surface defects in ceramic tiles, invisible to the naked eye, could be automatically detected by a new system being developed at the University of the West of England (UWE).
The new system would detect imperfections such as pinholes, crazing, rough or dull glazes, even on tiles with a texture or relief pattern, saving the industry time and money and reducing waste.
The system is being developed at the UWE's machine vision laboratories, in collaboration with Bath University and Fima Surface Inspection. It is based on photometric stereo technology, an area where the UWE is recognised for its expertise.
The research is being supported by the SWRDA's Great Western Research fund, with matching funding from the academic and industry partners.
Prof Melvyn Smith, director of the UWE's machine vision lab, said: 'This three-year project will lead to significant advances in automating inspection of ceramic tiles. It could also have applications in other industries, where the quality of the surface is paramount, such as metals or shiny plastic components. It builds on our existing expertise in photometric stereo, and will be able to capture surface topography detail at extremely high resolution.'
Arwyn Roberts, chief technical officer of Fima Surface Inspection, added: 'No commercial device exists so far for the online detection and analysis of defects in material that is rapidly moving along a production line. This project with the UWE and Bath University will allow us to become more competitive, as well as reducing the amount of waste materials.'
The new system could also open up new markets for the company in North America, the EU, China and India.