“Forswear it, sight!” – Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Engineer-cum-businessman and artist Yoon Hanjong takes photographs of elaborate electronic components using a visual inspection systems for electronic components (hereinafter referred to as an inspection system) to see just how finely the human eye can see. These seemingly pared-down photographs speak volumes about current technology, vision, and perception. First of all, the process of producing these pictures is quite distinct from that of the common photographs we know. Of course, photographs taken by machines have a different purpose. The photographs Yoon takes with an inspection system have a clear purpose: to detect defects on the surface of an electronic component. In the past, the human eye was used to find flaws but nowadays it is no longer used to make inspections at industrial sites. The procedures adopted to detect defects on the surfaces of electronic components are complicated beyond our imagination.
This includes important aspects of today’s intricately evolved industries. Why is it necessary to detect defects? The unit prices of lectronic components treated by Yoon’s inspection system are not very expensive: they are only a few cents. The problem is that high-priced mechanical equipment can become useless due to defects in these tiny components. All defects must be detected since the rate of defects in electronic components can affect the credibility of the company that produced it. A certain defect rate is inevitable for all electronic components. Inspections to find defects are carried out at high speed and high precision. An inspection system does not detect an actual defect; it merely inspects a chip’s outward appearance – it looks for any irregularities in its shape, size, color, and texture. The difference between the human eye and a mechanical eye is that the mechanical eye only sees what it is interested in. The
inspection system is unconcerned with whether the object being inspected is a condenser or a resistance and whether it is defective or not. It just searches for things that are different from the norm. It only examines chips that escape from their designed size or allow for errors. Thus, the inspection system’s eye is elementally different from the human eye which judges subjectively as it is distracted by diverse concerns and becomes tangled up in the brain’s knowledge and interests. Inspection procedures are largely divided into three phases: feeding, inspection, and sorting. A feeder must transmit chips to be inspected to an inspection camera both quickly and accurately (at a maximum of 8,000 pieces per minute). The chips should be set at an angle so that they present a face for the camera to inspect. The camera used for inspecting electronic parts is elementally different from
a common camera. The latter feature diverse settings that can be adjusted according to a user’s preferences and emotions as it is being used, which is fundamentally different from the former depending thoroughly on the specification of inspection. A general purpose camera becomes one with its user’s eyes and moreover his or her body, allowing it to generate images as it moves together with one’s body. After that, a correctly positioned chip passes through a trigger sensor. After the location of the chip is recorded, the sensor transmits a signal to order a camera placed at a relative distance to automatically take a photograph. Numerical values such as the chip’s moving speed and the distance between the sensor and the camera are calculated. Next, the chip is transmitted to the inspection section, the core of the inspection system. When it receives a signal that a chip has arrived, the camera takes pictures by reading the encoder’s value. Yoon took pictures of electronic components measuring 1.0×0.5mm using a lens with a magnification of 1.5x by flashing a 6W(Red/Green/Blue) LED light at different angles. The intensity and angle of the lighting are important since any unevenness on the surface of a component is noticeable when the light is askew. A lens with a magnification of 1.5x may be considered insignificant but when it is used to photograph components measuring less than 1mm, it is comparable to the magnification of a microscope level. The photographed images are interpreted by an image processing algorithm and then assessed whether they are defective or normal. Yoon has produced his works using this system which he has developed and sold. They are figures of electronic components that are magnified to a point where the original objects are no longer distinguishable. The electronic components photographed at high magnifications are initially not visually
provocative. Yoon thus interferes in his “work” in a benevolent fashion. That is to say, as industrially engendered images have nothing spectacular for us to look forward to, he brought something to his works so as to arouse interest. He uses either nitric acid to corrode an inward electrode or a mixture of hydrochloric acid and aqua regia, the only liquid capable of melting gold. The electronic components photographed with a camera and lens at high magnifications resemble tree bark and beetles. As they are enlargements of an extremely minute world, it is difficult for us to identify their true nature with our eyes alone. The surface of an electronic component appears sleek when seen with the naked eye but when it is enlarged at high magnifications, however, it appears irregular and uneven with a plurality of metal particles. At this view, it looks more like the surface of a rock found in
nature. It betrays our belief that an industrial part is standardized and processed at supreme precision. Both mistakes and failures are part of the nature of humanity that we cannot eschew no matter advanced technology becomes. Yoon named theses works “Invisible Beings”, which is a proper name for objects that are invisible to the naked eyes. Invisible Beings is a title that denotes human efforts to explore an invisible world ever since the invention of the microscope in 1590 and the telescope in 1608. If we examine them closely, we may discover that most machines are as beautiful as or even more beautiful than artworks. This is why the creativity, emotion, and even sophistication necessary for creating works of art play a role in manufacturing machines. The mechanisms of feeders and guiders that move electronic parts at very quick speeds and resituate them into correct positions are not only exquisite but also beautiful. The metal parts consisting of those mechanisms are very small but their surface texture and gloss feel as profound as Henry Moore’s sculptures. That is an up-todate form of the eye that can see everything and humans have tried to achieve from ancient times. The cans to contain chips are ventilated not to get damp and pressure is well adjusted not to push too hard. Sponge is put on the insides of those cans to prevent chips from damaging when they fall into them. The images resulted from such careful consideration and sensuous arrangement bring about surrealistic beauty. The images of electronic components enlarged a hundred times seem laden with life force to be parts of important instruments that forge our everyday lives. Any machine loses its light and movement when power is not supplied. If power is supplied, the machine starts emitting light and moving as if it is given life. All these are possible when the cells of tiny electronic components are alive. An inspection system is the machine that inspects and confirms whether such cells could live or not. Just like how a grain of sand holds the universe, and the universe holds a millions of grains of sand, electronic components and inspection systems are not in a hierarchy; they are rather two overlapped worlds. Could “Invisible Beings”, the title of Yoon’s works, mean those overlapped worlds are invisible to the naked eyes? It seems meaningless to distinguish what is scientific technology and what is art. At the time where technology has replaced humans, why does it feel thrilled to see technology replaces art?