Simplicity Brightens Vision's Future

Vision processing is a difficult task requiring many calculations that must be done in real time or close to it. But in the past few years, microprocessors and digital signal processors reached performance levels that make it possible to process complex algorithms in the available time.

That has prompted vision manufacturers to put more emphasis on making machine vision easier to implement. “I did our installation by myself with only some help from a software person,” says Steve Smith, manufacturing engineer at Rotary Lift, a Madison, Ind., maker of automotive service bay equipment. Smith employed hardware from ipd, the intelligent products division of Coreco Imaging Inc., of Bilerica, Mass., with assistance from a single programmer.

Vision system designers have focused on using concepts operators are familiar with. “An overriding design goal is simplicity, designing for someone who’s familiar with using sensors, not vision systems,” says John Keating, Product Marketing Manager for the Expert Sensors product team at Cognex Corp., a Natick, Mass.-based machine vision vendor.

The automotive and electronics industries remain the biggest users of vision equipment, but industry experts are seeing more usage in packaging applications. “There’s a lot of acceptance in food and beverage, especially in applications that require a tamper band,” says Reno Suffi, Vision Product Manager at vendor Omron Electronics LLC, of Schaumburg, Ill.

Machine vision also provides a quick way to make sure that printing meets standards. Bar codes and labels can be examined individually, even on high-speed packaging lines, providing closer scrutiny than human examiners can provide.

Machine vision system designers are also capitalizing on the popularity of the Internet to simplify setup. Many are using Web-based user interfaces so installers and maintenance personnel are seeing screen styles they’re familiar with. “Smart cameras are going more and more to enabling Web services, letting users configure systems using a Web browser,” says Ron Sogueco, application engineer at vision vendor DVT Corp., of Duluth, Ga.

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