Automatic tire inspection: artificial intelligence on the way

Artificial intelligence is one of today’s industrial megatrends, spreading with a speed that is nothing short of staggering. General consumers deal with it on a daily basis in a variety of devices, from smartphones to cars, now home appliances and digital cameras, and we can even say that it has become a vital marketing tool. AI, as expected, is being relentlessly implemented in both industry equipment and workshop tools and the tire industry is no exception, for example automated tire monitoring systems. This supply chain appears to be in full evolution and many manufacturers, even outside the industry, are proposing equipment of this type. The advantages are obvious: inspection procedures are fast with reliable and repeatable results and often physical contact with the tire is not even required.


Zeiss experience and knowhow for quick check-ups

Zeiss needs no introduction, as its almost 180 years of history speak for themselves. The experience gained in optics and imaging has allowed the company to propose, under the brand Intact, a complete range of equipment for automated tire inspection. The technique used is Shearography, a non-destructive method that uses coherent laser light to highlight defects over surfaces where complete smoothness is not required. Once illuminated by the laser, a photo is taken of the area highlighting a speckled pattern due to the roughness of the material. The item to be examined is then stressed with a mechanical load and a second photo is taken: the superposition of the two images will highlight the defects on the tire. This makes it possible to quickly inspect large and complex surfaces. Zeiss Intact machines guarantee objective and efficient tire quality control, particularly useful in the tire retreading industry. Intacts tools enable tire inspection both from bead to bead and, more quickly, from shoulder to shoulder. The range includes 3 measuring machines for tires up to 500 mm in width, with rims from 13" up to 1,230mm, and one, the Intact 1600, which can handle 600 mm wide tires and diameters up to 1,600 mm. Intact can detect defects with a minimum size of 1 mm regardless the location - tread, shoulder, bead and sidewall - with an a working capacity of up to 100 tires/hour (shoulder to shoulder) for the Intact 1200-4, equipped with 4 measuring "heads". The value drops to 31 tires/hour for the more demanding bead-to-bead analysis; these values drop to h 9 and 30 respectively for the basic Intact 1200-1 model.


Quarries and construction sites, the importance of tire inspection

Large, heavy trucks used on construction sites and in quarries/mines have off-road (OTR) tires suitable for dirt, mud and gravel. Such demanding conditions make tire blowouts and over-heating not uncommon and therefore represent not only a hazard but also a significant cost. To prevent these situations, visual inspections of OTR tires are scheduled, which could involve a lengthy downtime. In order to increase safety and decrease downtime, the U.S. Industrial Monitoring and Control has developed, a remote tire control system that highlights abnormal tire temperatures, alerting the personnel. The system consists of a Teledyne FLIR camera, an "armoured" computer made by Neousys Technology and a 48 V Lithium-Iron Phosphate battery charged by photovoltaic panels. Everything is mounted on a platform that can be placed on any surface; the system is available in 3 versions - mine, compliance and fleet – with three separate software loaded on the computer. The compliance and fleet versions are focused on brake control and share similar learning and AI data. The mining version, on the other hand, specializes in detecting "hot spots" and damage such as cuts caused by rocks and possible tread separation, which resulted in more in-depth AI "learning". Once a construction vehicle is recognized both the frame rate and the resolution of the video are increased for greater accuracy. For example, machine learning allows the recognition of tire treads even if the vehicle takes any route and not a predetermined one to perform the test. The's connection to the cloud allows for notifications and alerts to be sent anywhere, a very useful option in large quarries and construction sites. Industrial Monitoring and Control is also testing new software capable of detecting mechanical unbalance in brakes, suspensions, and transmissions.


Michelin know-how in ProovStations

ProovStation is, as the name implies, a digital "station" created to inspect vehicles. Passing through the ProovStation, Artificial Intelligence automatically identifies the vehicle, detects body damage and the extent of it, and evaluates the cost of repair. Digital cameras take hundreds of high-resolution photos of the vehicle, quality images thanks to a built-in lighting system, and processes them through a sophisticated AI system. The system sends the inspection report, protected against hackers and equipped with date, time and location, to a cloud accessible anywhere. The system has flexible management software and a dedicated inspection app that facilitates the manual integration of the results if needed. This interesting solution, which also manages to provide an estimate for the repair of all detected damages, can be equipped with dedicated cameras for license plate recognition. Another optional feature is an under-car scanning camera, whose images are sent to a tablet or smartphone for a truly comprehensive inspection. The ProovStation can also be integrated with Michelin QuickScan technology, a solution initially designed for truck tires and then adapted to cars. It is a system that checks tire wear precisely and instantaneously, bringing the total time of a vehicle inspection down to 1/2 minutes. QuickScan is protected by some fifteen patents and uses Michelin's proprietary artificial intelligence algorithms. This technology comes in the form of two "blocks" placed on the floor, can be installed in less than four hours, scans RFID tags and runs on battery power, with no need to install electrical cables. Its magnetic operation allows to safely work in all weather conditions, measures all types of tires and vehicles, and requires no cleaning.


Texa Laser Examiner, pocket-sized and versatile

Tire inspection, even if not automatic, can be very quick and easy thanks to small hi-tech devices. The Texa Laser Examiner, for example, is a lightweight diagnostic tool that can detect both the state of the brake disc and the thickness of the tread. In order to measure the latter a specific accessory is used that is attached to the Laser Examiner thanks to the same magnet that positions the instrument on the disc. Able to communicate with the PC software or with the diagnostic tools, the Laser Examiner checks the tread wear and provides a complete report on the state of discs and tires which can then be printed and delivered to the driver. This tester measures 250 x 40 x 20 mm weighs 80 grams and runs on a rechargeable battery via the classic USB port. The Laser Examiner software includes a management system that allows the repairer or the tire specialist to efficiently manage all measurements by creating an updated database for the vehicle, a very useful solution for scheduling maintenance. Position the user-friendly Laser Examiner on the disc or tire, press the button and you will see a laser light projected on the disc or on the tire. Press the button once more and captures an image that is analysed by the 1 Megapixel micro-camera contained in the device. The Laser Examiner processes the data in real time and compares it to the minimum allowed value, giving immediate feedback.