Hankook introduces AI for ‘smarter’ tyre inspection
Artificial intelligence (AI) and digital sensor technology is being employed to automate the inspection of freshly-manufactured tyres at Hankook Tire & Technology’s production facilities. Hankook says its automatic inspection system will improve efficiency and consistency at the final stage of product testing.
Trained workers conduct a variety of tests during the inspection process. In particular, they perform three thorough inspections at the final stage to detect any possible defects. These checks involve internal inspection using an Interferometer Tire Tester (ITT) to detect the existence of air bubbles inside the tyre, x-ray inspection to look inside the tyre, and external inspection.
Image processing can prove challenging at times because the shape and size of air bubbles is irregular. Before this process, highly skilled technicians with years of experience were needed to make judgements based on their expertise. From now on, Hankook will apply its newly-developed automatic inspection system to the ITT, with help from AI technology.
Thanks to AI technology, the computer will be able to accelerate the inspection process by systematically finding any defects in non-conforming patterns. Hankook collaborated with AI experts in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) to implement this machine learning technology-based system of automation.
This new technology won’t just make the ITT’s internal inspection more efficient and consistent, it will also improve the facility’s operation rate by reducing decision-making times. In future, Hankook plans to apply AI technology to x-ray inspection and external inspection as well.
“Hankook has been positioning itself as a digital leader. The development of the automatic inspection system is yet another feature aligned to such innovation, making it possible for us to secure a leading position in digital transformation in this fast-changing business environment,” said Hyunshick Cho, vice chairman and president of Hankook Technology Group, “We will continue to pursue innovation and advance towards a global top-tier company.”
Becoming a technology-focused brand
The goal of positioning Hankook as an advanced technology-focused brand can be seen in a change of name implemented in May 2019 – Hankook Tire became Hankook Tire & Technology. Then at the end of last year, Hankook made what it considers a “significant achievement”. It introduced the ‘Virtual Compound Design (VCD) system’, an AI-driven, predictive model for tyre compound properties. Hankook is planning to expand the technology to the entire tyre development process. The company’s stated aims are to build smart factories that lead the tyre industry in digital innovation and “eventually to make products of outstanding quality that meet customers’ diverse needs in a more efficient way.”
In order to promote the company’s R&D and digital technology capabilities through digital transformation, in April 2019 Hankook signed a joint agreement with KAIST, one of South Korea’s leading science and technology universities, to develop future technologies. A result of this collaborative work was the setting up of the ‘HK-KAIST Digital Innovation Center’. Through this facility, Hankook is working together with KAIST in a range of areas, such as manufacturing, logistics and R&D, in order to attain leadership in future technologies.