The Future Of Automated Optical Inspection In PCA

With the rapid development of technology, Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) growth has risen in recent years. According to one report from ScienceSoft, the rapid growth of the surface technology segment coupled with an increase in the use of small-sized components will massively drive the market for SMT (surface-mount technology) inspection equipment and software.

The shifting dynamics bolstering this growth demands that businesses in this circle monitor and work side by side to match the changing pulse of the market. With the development of the LCD (liquid crystal display) module industry, LCD modules are becoming more and more precise with larger sizes. The implication is that this technology demands harsh imaging requirements for the AOI machine.


As a means of eliminating large-sized components, the idea of shrinking the smallest components of printed circuit assemblies (PCA) is being implemented. Firstly, PCBs are far from being an ideal solution. According to research conducted at the University of Missouri, manual inspection of PCBs, although available for over 20 years, is not considered an option.

The technique was considered too slow and expensive, something that doesn’t guarantee a reasonable conclusion and high quality. Even when it looked promising, components of printed circuit boards became more precision-oriented and customized. Low efficiency, large size, cost, leading to excessive rejection rates are reasons that such a device cannot keep up with current technological needs.

In order to achieve what this era demands, more reliable and swift AOI solutions have been developed to ensure the highest quality standards are met.

The U.S. and China dominate the billion-dollar market

AOI Systems market worldwide is projected to grow by US$1.4 billion, driven by a compounded growth of 23. 1%. One of the segments analyzed and sized, 2D Automated Optical Inspection Systems, displays the potential to grow at over 24%. The United States and China are leaders, projecting an estimated CAGR of 22.5% and 20.7% respectively.

In the U.S., amid the coronavirus crisis, the AOI (Automated Optical Inspection) Systems market in the year 2020 is estimated at US$159.8 Million. It is projected to reach over US$2.1 Billion by the year 2027. The 2D Automated Optical Inspection Systems will trigger economic growth while in the 3D Automated Optical Inspection Systems segment is readjusted to a revised 19.1% CAGR from now till 2027.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, exhibits the potential to grow at 20.7% over the next seven years and is forecast to reach US$358.8 Million in 2027.

Japan and Canada are among other noteworthy geographic markets, each forecast to grow at 19.1% and 17.9% CAGR within the next seven years. This will greatly contribute to providing opportunities for aspiring businesses.

Germany outperforms in Europe, forecast to grow at approximately 14.7% CAGR within the 2020-2027 period.

Automated optical inspection takes up the challenge

Automated visual inspection can acquire and process millions of pixels on a dime. This small-sized technology is designed with several light sources and high-resolution digital cameras to inspect the surface of a board.

In the nearest future, AOI solutions will easily replace human visual inspection procedures as they are designed to conduct all the visual checks performed by humans, in fact even more accurately and rapidly. Some of the problems an AOI machine will solve include:

  • defects of completeness (incorrect components, misplaced components, and missing components)
  • surface feature defects (stains, nodules, and scratches)
  • dimensional defects (short circuits, open circuits, insufficient or excessive soldering)

What the future holds for AOI

The future of AOI machines is very bright as the demand shows no signs of decline. The demand for PCAs in the development of AOI systems is increasing rapidly. In the coming years, we will see further developments including:

Further advancement in image analysis software, including fuzzy logic systems, neural networks and other intelligent algorithms are expected to increase the reliability and efficiency of AOI systems dramatically.

Potential challenges

While AOI systems are becoming more and more popular, there seem to be some potential challenges to deal with.

One of them is that some components and solder joints may be hidden or require an inspection from different angles, thus may not fully accessible by simple 2D scanning.

Possible solution: The introduction of a rotating camera will make it possible to implement different viewing directions, making it easy to inspect the tight angles and blind spots.

Different pad geometries may affect image analysis results, so the plane might not be enough when inspecting printed circuit boards mounted with 3D components.

Possible solution: Apply multiple illumination modalities to enhance the contrast of different parts.

The Bottom Line

In future, PCAs will become so small, about the size of a pencil point, but will require a higher level of accuracy when placing active components onto the surface of the board, shrinking into a small-sized component as well as catering to its demand (a higher accuracy is challenging) even for the best brains.

As such, the need to adopt automated optical inspection is imminent to assure that the product quality remains high.

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Cortex Robotics Sdn Bhd.


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