In this paper we outline an approach to a fast low-cost system for the inspection and evaluation of surface-mount assemblies and solder joints, giving particular focus to the need for robustness in such a system. We describe the software modules involved in extracting features, and shape analysis for the purpose of inspection. A common problem during the early stages of image processing is the loss of information about the edges of shape because of noise, weak contrast, or occlusion, which often increases the amount of incorrect interpretations of a given image when presented to higher levels of processing. An algorithm is described which significantly reduces the effect of such problems before information is passed to later stages of the vision process. The algorithm, which uses information about contour to correct dropouts is generic, employing no application specific information and is therefore applicable to vision systems in general.