In many production chains visual inspection of products is an important manufacturing consideration with respect to quality control. Recent progress in image processing and pattern recognition led the way to economically justified applications; modern technology enables the construction of such auto
mata featuring high reliability and constancy. This paper describes an automatic visual inspection machine performing intelligent control tasks in a very short time. The possible applications include dimension control of products; inspection of objects on shape, greyness, or texture; sorting of objects; positioning; etc. The design is based on a fast synthesis procedure of a TV image by profile extraction. The features to be controlled are extracted from these profiles and compared with upper/lower limits obtained from a learning process. The system performances are expressed by the elaboration of an industrial case, the real-time visual inspection of reed switches. More than 35 features are detected and controlled for each switch within 1 second. Several experiments with a prototype version have proven the feasible use as an industrial on-line controller.