The case of the invisible machine

By KC Boxbottom in Automation on October 01, 2015

Gary’s phone call caught me as I was coming into the office. "I can't see my new machine," he told me.

"What does that even mean?" I asked.

"When I look at my machine, all I see is the mesh guarding,” Gary said. “I can't see inside without stopping and opening the guarding."

"That doesn't sound good," I told him.

"Not good at all," he replied. "How soon can you get here?"

It was soon enough and then Gary was showing me the machine, brand new with all the modern features. The guarding was shiny expanded stainless mesh. I told him, "This is a pretty reliable machine. You should be able to enclose it in a big black box and never look at it.”

"Yeah, but not being able to see a machine working is a recipe for disaster." We both agreed there.

"In any event, Gary, fiddlesticks on obfuscatory guarding. All you need is some black paint."

"Black paint? Won't that make it even less transparent?"

"Not if you use a flat black paint," I explained. "The shiny stainless looks really nice but it tricks the eye. Because it is so visible, our eyes focus on the metal rather than looking through to focus on what is behind it. That's why it is so hard to see through. A flat, non-reflective, black paint hides that focal point for the eye and you will find it much easier to see what is going on behind the guarding."

Sometimes it is good to go over to the dark side.


KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at [email protected].

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This is perforated not expanded metal.