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To detect defects on steel strips, good lighting contrast has always been essential. Until recently, mills have had to choose between Bright Field or Dark Field illumination. LED technology for stroboscopic inspection now allows inspectors to gain the same technological advantages that previously were only available using cameras. The ability to synchronise multiple lights has led to the development of algorithms that, when paired with stroboscopic inspection light positioning, provides optimum visual inspection at far less cost than camera-based systems. Cross Light Illumination affords metal producers better inspection capability. Operators have greater insight to the quality of the steel they are producing to increase yield and reduce customer rejections.

How Stroboscopic Inspection Works

A flash from a strobe light acts to freeze motion seen by the eye just as the camera shutter does for a photographer. A flash, with a duration of 10 to 20 microseconds, triggers a motion-freezing retinal response. An object moving at 600 meters per minute moves only 0.1 mm during this time – a distance so negligible it appears absolutely stationary to the eye. Thus motion blur is eliminated and contrast, critical to defect definition and detection, is enhanced.
Xenon-based strobe lights, although rated at 10 to 20 microsecond durations, are measured at 90% peak and, in reality these strobes had very long tail of discharge times that could easily extend over 100 to 200 microseconds. LED-based strobe lights enable precise timing of on- and off-time, so the exact flash duration (or on-time) of the light can be controlled (see figure 1). It is this characteristic of the LED stroboscopic light that allows sharper and crisper images as well as the capability to apply cross light inspection via strobe placement and algorithmic timing.


To understand the application of cross light inspection one must first understand how incoming light will interact with a metal surface. With Bright Field lighting, the various rays of light on the steel surface will be specular, meaning the angle of incidence will equal the angle of reflection. With proper positioning of the light source, the reflective angle of the light is directed back to the inspector as a disperse light and displays defects as dark on a bright background. Defects such as scratches, dents, slivers, scale and holes are easily recognisable in this light. Bright Field lighting is generally used on dull or matte finished surfaces.

If the surface is smooth and shiny, a very high percentage of the light will be reflected back at the operator creating `hot spots` that can make inspection difficult. In these cases Dark Field lighting is applied. In Dark Field lighting, reflected light shines towards the strip at a steep angle and away from the inspector. The image of the surface that the inspector sees will tend to be dark since the majority of the light will not be reflected back to the inspector. If there is a defect on the surface that causes light to be scattered causing a change in the angle of the light, then the inspector will observe this defect as a light area on a dark background. On highly reflective surfaces, this angle of light will highlight scratches, build up and dross.

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