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Artgame: Artful quality control thanks to algorithms and automation

This article was published on Aug 16, 2023, 2:26 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Creating a machine to quality check 3D artwork for Artgame was a new challenge for Callaghan Innovation. But taking it in their stride, they were able to produce exactly what was needed.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • Art licensing company Artgame creates and prints premium lenticular images on items such as bookmarks and postcards, but they needed a quality control solution as it couldn’t be done manually.
    • Knowing it could be done but with no automation expertise, they turned to Callaghan Innovation, giving them free rein to come up with the solution.
    • The result was a machine that used automation and algorithms to process the 3D art, quality checking the products before automatically sorting them based on a pass or fail.

    A quality control issue

    The challenge…automating a process for checking images of Star Wars and Marvel characters.

    A company focussed on art licensing and 3D art, Artgame uses lenticular printing to print 3D images on products such as bookmarks, cards and coasters. And while the printing technology gives the illusion of depth or the ability to change or move as they are viewed from different angles, this also means manual quality control isn’t possible due to the subjectiveness. 

    “It couldn’t be done by hand because it was too many and subjective to the individual,” Project Manager Cody McClure says. “One person might pass it when another person would fail it.”

    Automating that quality control process however, would allow for a direct yes or no, without having to train people. So Artgame set about trying to do just that, believing the answer lay in automating the existing algorithms behind the cameras which create the lenticular technology.

    Giving Callaghan Innovation free rein

    A new challenge for Callaghan Innovation, the Research and Development Solutions Robotics and Automation team set to work.

    “We had obviously done automation of processes, but for plants such as meat works,” Senior Research Scientist Kit Wong says. “This was for high quality, really nice lenticular prints.”

    The Callaghan Innovation team was given free rein by Artgame to develop the solution, Wong says.

    Subsequently, the team did the concept design for the quality control machine, built a prototype, and performance-tested it in the lab. “We have various robots we can use to test different concepts, so we don’t have to go down the path of not knowing whether it will work or not,” Wong says.

    The Artgame project has been satisfying for the team at Callaghan Innovation. “We could take the concept and play with it and take it all the way to building a full machine, and now going into the factory,” Wong says.

    Staying ahead of the rest through innovation

    Getting Callaghan Innovation on board ultimately enabled Artgame to conduct a project it had talked about for a long time, and it required minimal oversight, McClure says. “They kept us in touch, it didn’t feel like we had to talk to them every week.”

    The resulting machine has an infeed that can hold up to 100 bookmarks or postcards at a time. The products are fed into a scanner which rotates the prints and captures pictures of them, which are then analysed by the image processing algorithm which decides whether the item is up to standard. From here, the items are automatically sorted into pass or fail piles.

    The quality control machine has since arrived in China and is being put through its paces, with McClure saying they will soon know how well it works in the factory.

    Overall, it is this kind of R&D and investment in innovation that is helping the Tauranga-based company stay ahead of its encroaching competitors, as well as keep their Australian and US-based sales staff busy.

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