NPI assessment highlights minor redesign – our service ethic gives customer their data for the first time

By Jason Cooper, OSIE UK’s Lead Engineer

OSI Electronics UK has taken over manufacturer of Rapiscan Systems’ RFLX_IDU reflexion integrated detector unit (left – click the picture for an enlargement).  It forms an integral part of Rapiscan’s cargo and vehicle inspection (CVI) units for screening vehicles at ports, borders, military locations, high-threat facilities and checkpoints around the world.

OSI Electronics UK in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, has begun manufacture of Rapiscan Systems’ RFLX_IDU reflexion integrated detector unit – it’s an integral part of Rapiscan’s cargo and vehicle inspection (CVI) units for screening vehicles at ports, borders, military locations, high-threat facilities and checkpoints around the world.

A limited run of the RFLX_IDU, manufactured a previous supplier, had proved the unit – but being new to OSIE UK, it was given NPI (new product introduction) status to access the requirements for manufacture:  components, processes and timescales.

This highlighted that two of the connectors on the front of the unit were obsolete.  Unfortunately, the replacements are a different style which did not fit the original cut-outs in the front panel – and are held by two screws instead of four.

Small redesign
As a consequence, we had to redesign the panel metalwork and the polycarbonate label artwork to suit the new connector positioning – and, of course, obtain Rapiscan’s approval and sign off for the changes.

Surprisingly, none the drawings produced by the original manufacturer of the units were given to Rapiscan, so we recreated the information in Rapiscan’s format and passed those on to them so they now own the data.

The main elements of the unit are a PCB – a double sided surface mount board with conventional on – and LEDs wired into headers and connectors and secured inside a metal case.

Complete component sourcing and manufacture
We’re sourcing all the components – the cases, metalwork and polycarbonate as well as all the electronics: capacitors, LEDs, power controllers and sensors etc, giving us the benefit of total control over quality and production schedules.

With the changes we had to make – and also being a new supplier – the ‘first time build’ will be evaluation units for Rapiscan to test and trial.  Later on when we have their full confidence and access to the board’s programming, we will fully test each unit on Rapiscan’s behalf before they are shipped.

Is this typical of the way we operate?  Yes – we look very carefully at how a product is designed from a manufacturing point of view.  We want to minimise handling and automate wherever possible.  We recently near-doubled our manufacturing capability with multiple lines of workflow stations, increasing the importance of design for manufacturing to the benefit of our customers.

Competitive markets
If the product design has been set, we normally can’t change anything.  But as with the Rapiscan unit, we’ll make suggestions to customers of how best to lay out components to make manufacturing simpler – this is especially useful when we’re involved from an early stage.

We’ve always felt it’s in our customers’ interest for us to reduce costs and improve manufacturing efficiency without sacrificing quality or reliability; if we can also speed production, it helps to get product to market sooner.

Of course, with an existing product, those ‘raw’ opportunities don’t normally exist – if the product is working fine, redesigns and retooling may not be economic on the face of it; even so, we will still look to see where savings can be made and report back to our customer.

While the product may work, in a very competitive market place, our suggestions may help customers to differentiate their product, improve its functionality or increase their margins.

About the Rapiscan RFLX_IDU
The RFLX_IDU interfaces with photo-multiplier tube (PMT) based x-ray detector(s) to the Rapiscan CVI system.  PMTs are well-suited for applications requiring low-noise, high-sensitivity detection of light imperfectly collimated.

The RFLX_IDU board provides high- and low-voltage power supplies for the x-ray detector and all the analogue and digital electronics necessary to convert the output signal from the PMT into a suitable format to be transferred to a Rapiscan system controller for further processing.

The RFLX_IDU is one of a number of image generation and processing sub-components which forms part of Rapiscan Systems’ low-energy backscatter imaging systems.

Rapiscan’s backscatter family of products uses low-energy X-rays, scattered backwards from the vehicle under inspection, to identify inorganic threats: drugs, plastic explosives and stowaways.

Backscatter imaging techniques provide a complimentary view of the conveyance to the more typical high-energy transmission systems which aim to identify high-density materials.