SEOUL, South Korea—Hankook Tire & Technology Co. Ltd. has begun automating the final inspection process for tires by applying artificial intelligence and digital sensor technology to enhance efficiency and consistency.
Hankook is developing the inspection system for now as proprietary technology, but said it believes it could turn the process into a stand-alone business that it would consider licensing to third parties at some point.
Hankook noted final-stage inspection involves three types of examination to detect possible defects: internal inspection using a type of shearography; X-ray inspection of a tire's internal structure; and external visual inspection.
In particular, Hankook believes AI-based technology can be brought to bear in the shearography—which it refers to as Interferometer Tire Testing—and X-ray inspections.
Currently, skilled technicians evaluate the ITT images using expertise gained during years of experience, Hankook said. Using AI technology would allow the computer to find defects in nonconforming patterns systematically, thus accelerating the process.
Shearography, or interferometric measurement, is a non-destructive, contactless inspection process that compares two laser-based images of a tire—one at rest and one under vacuum—to determine if there are any anomalies in a tire's internal construction.
Hankook said it has collaborated with AI experts in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology to develop and implement this system based on machine-learning technology.
"Hankook has been positioning itself as a digital leader," Hyunshick Cho, vice chairman and president of Hankook Technology Group.
"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."
Hankook sees the new technology as a way to maximize consistency and efficiency of final inspection while also reducing the decision-making time at this stage and thus improver overall plant efficiency.
Hankook plans to apply AI technology to X-ray inspection and external inspection as well.
"We will continue to pursue innovation and advance towards a global top-tier company," Cho said.
For now, the AI-based system is in place at one plant, the Geumsan, South Korea, car and truck tire factory, but the company plans to begin installing it at other plants worldwide after the Geumsan testing is finished in October, Hankook said.
This is the second time of late that Hankook has touted the development of an AI-based technology. Last year, Hankook disclosed the development of its "Virtual Compound Design" system, a predictive model for tire compound properties using AI.