Leather inspection and characterization using non-destructive techniques
Leather is a widely used component of many products such as shoes, car seats, garments and other leather goods. Because it is a natural material, a tanned hide will contain visual and hidden flaws. In addition, its mechanical properties vary over the hide. At present, hides are inspected and assessed by skilled operatives. Further, current objective leather testing requires removal of samples and is either destructive and/or incompatible with real time operation, and little or no information about the rest of the skin is provided. A novel mechanical scanning system was built for non-destructive leather testing. The investigation was focused on two of the most important physical leather properties, static compressibility across thickness and tensile properties for low strain regions. The results of static compression energy measurements for a compressive strain of 10 percent, showed a close agreement with the results of tests performed by a conventional compressibility tester. Further, the results of strain energy and stress measurements for a strain of 2 percent, revealed a very good correlation with the results of conventional tensile tests for a similar strain. The application of infrared thermography, a non destructive and contact less technique, to leather characterisation and inspection was investigated in this work. It was shown that this technique could be used for detecting defects in leather, as well as for estimating their size and deepness. However, defect visibility by infrared thermography is conditioned by the fact that a defective area has to cause different material properties or produce an internal thermal resistance. Further, the prohibitive cost of infrared thermography cameras for automation is a serious limitation for its application in current leather testing. It is recommended that the ideal testing system would be based on the combination of mechanical scanning, normal computer vision and infrared thermography. The normal computer vision part of this system would be responsible for measuring area and detecting defects that are visible in nature. The infrared thermography part of the system would be responsible for detecting the type of defects overlooked by the previous method, as well as some thermo-physical parameters. Finally, the Mechanical Scanning System would provide the physical properties of leather, like compressibility, tensile modulus, shear stress and softness that the vision based inspection systems are incapable of providing. In this way, every single skin could be completely characterised in terms of defects and physical properties.