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Case study: Ensuring DPM Code Readability on PCB Identifiers

Direct part mark (DPM) codes can be difficult for traditional imaging technology to read due to low contrast visibility of the symbol or inconsistency in the marking process. But Microscan's QX Hawk flexible industrial imager is up for any DPM challenge.

ATC Automation, Microscan distributor in Ireland, recently tackled an especially demanding application to read DPM (direct part mark) codes on their customer's miniature PCB identifier pads. ATC's solution took advantage of the aggressive decode algorithms and integrated LED lights in Microscan's QX Hawk imager, which was used to read the laser-etched 2D Data Matrix codes on identifier pads measuring just 2.80mm by 1.80mm. In addition to ensuring complete, reliable decodes for every pad, the imaging solution was able to read four codes within the imager's field of view at once, arrange the read data into a specific sequential format with separators, and then send the codes in the correct sequence to a database on a central server. This was achieved using Microscan's ESP ® (Easy Setup Program) Software and the QX Hawk's embedded Ethernet networking which enables high-speed communication between the QX Hawk and the server.


In its current implementation, the QX Hawk reads the Data Matrix etched on the customer's identifier pads to double-check that each code is present, readable, that the data it contains is logged correctly. With this solution in place, the customer can rest assured that all PCBs that enter their line will be properly identified and tracked throughout their operations for complete WIP traceability. Should an issue arise during production, the customer can trace the issue back to a particular PCB or a step in the production process and prevent downtime, failures, or added cost in the long run.

According to Brian Walsh, Engineering Sales Manager at ATC Automation, the QX Hawk was the ideal solution to meet all of their customer's criteria. " The QX Hawk delivers very impressive read rates on the extremely low contrast codes," Walsh commented. " Together with the miniature, low-resolution codes, this poses a unique reading challenge that its decoding algorithms can easily handle. We initially thought that we might need additional external lighting, but the QX Hawk had no problems reading the miniature codes on the pads just using its internal LED lighting system."


" We are also looking into the additional benefits that a machine vision solution could offer, especially the Vision HAWK smart camera from Microscan," Mr. Walsh concludes. " Machine vision validation, grading, and verification could offer our customers detailed information regarding code quality."

Read the full case study about ATC Automation's barcode reading solution in Microscan's Case Study Library.

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