2011

Making Machine Vision Systems Smarter

Machine vision technology is used extensively throughout manufacturing to improve product quality, increase productivity and reduce costs. One of the reasons for that is a machine vision system will work tirelessly on mundane repetitive tasks at high speed with great precision.

altThe typical implementation involves configuring camera systems to capture and analyze the manufacturing process against user defined acceptance criteria. Costly errors associated with incomplete or incorrect assembly can then be quickly identified and eliminated to assure customer satisfaction and brand protection. Machine vision systems can also be integrated directly into the factory control network for efficient data sharing and process monitoring.

A wide range of applications and industries can benefit from machine vision inspection, including automotive, electronics, medical, packaging, pharmaceutical, semiconductor and general manufacturing.

Smart Cameras

One of the latest advances in machine vision technology involves the use of so-called “smart” cameras. What are “smart” cameras and how do they simplify machine vision?

A smart camera combines the functionality of a digital camera, processing, software, and communications into one small package. Smart cameras are an excellent choice for a machine vision system handling tasks such as positioning, identification, verification, measurement, or flaw detection.

Smart cameras are easy to integrate at an affordable price, while consuming very little space and power. Some smart cameras are specifically designed for industrial use with an IP67-rated housing, which means that the camera can be directly deployed in harsh, wash-down environments. This is particularly useful to meet cleanliness standards in the food and pharmaceutical industries, and it eliminates the need for a separate, costly protective enclosure.

The small form factor and easy mounting capabilities of many smart cameras allow them to be integrated easily into existing production lines, machinery, or moving equipment.

How the Software Works

altFully integrated, easy-to-use software is a key factor to consider when choosing a smart camera. PC-based machine vision systems and smart cameras require programming because they are general-purpose tools. However, if the programming takes too much time, the benefits of a machine vision project will quickly evaporate. Therefore, easy-to-use software is required for rapid and successful development of a machine vision application.

For example, Teledyne DALSA’s BOA smart camera uses iNspect machine vision software, the same easy-to-use software that is available on PC-based machine vision systems. Vision applications are “programmed” graphically — you point-and-click to select a tool, such as a caliper, and then position that tool on the part to be measured. There is no programming in the conventional sense. Vision operations are presented in familiar terms, rather than the terms of machine vision algorithms. For example, the caliper tool is presented as if it was a mechanical gage so you don’t need to understand sub-pixel edge detection algorithms.