Hornby battles colour bind

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The Independent Online
HORNBY Hobbies, the toymaker, has gone to university to bring the decoration of its model trains and cars into the hi-tech age. It is collaborating with Loughborough University, with funding from the Science and Engineering Research Council, to eliminate a labour-intensive painting process that results at present in a high rejection rate.

Hornby currently prints its decorations on to the models one colour at a time. Each successive colour must be overprinted in the same position to a tolerance within 0.005mm - about one quarter the thickness of a human hair - otherwise the discrepancy would be visible. With the university's Department of Mechanical Engineering, Hornby has devised a way of using computer- controlled cameras to determine how the models should be positioned. The information is then transmitted to the gripper holding the model, which uses electronic sensors to check that the position is correct. The technique is quicker than manual methods and results in fewer rejected units.

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