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The problem of automated defect detection in textured materials is investigated. A new approach for defect detection using linear FIR filters with optimized energy separation is proposed. The performance of different feature separation criteria with reference to fabric defects has been evaluated. The issues relating to the design of optimal filters for supervised and unsupervised web inspection are addressed. A general web inspection system based on the optimal filters is proposed. The experiments on this new approach have yielded excellent results. The low computational requirement confirms the usefulness of the approach for industrial inspection.