Machine Vision Market Stays Strong

Smart Cameras and Greater Scalability Drive Innovations in Discrete Manufacturing

By Rick Pedraza

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New smart cameras and greater scalability are driving machine vision system innovations in the discrete manufacturing industry, according to a recent study released by the Automated Imaging Assn. (AIA). The study shows that sales and use of machine vision components in 2005 grew over the previous year, and predicts that 2006 will be even better.

"Machine vision markets continue to display strength and vitality with 2005's results building on 2004's record sales," says Paul Kellett, AIA's market analysis director. "All indications point to continued growth in 2006."

SEE ALSO: Machine Vision Looks Brighter

AIA adds that smart cameras saw the healthiest increase in unit sales over the previous year (19%), while jumping 14.4% in revenue. Sales of application-specific machine vision systems rose 13.6% in units and 6.4% in revenue, with the fastest-growing component markets being cameras, optics, and vision software.

The assembly of machine vision components (below) responds to discrete manufacturers, which increasingly are seeking miniaturized components in response to the industry's need for compact systems that provide increased throughput and accuracy. Advances in lighting and illumination, lasers, processors, sensors, and optics, as well as adoption of automation standards, contribute to greater use of devices with more flexibility and scalability across multiple production lines.

In addition, high-end machine vision imaging applications are moving from 2D to 3D. Frost & Sullivan's research analyst, Vishnu Sivadevan, says machine-vision system integrators face growing challenges to provide systems that not only reduce set-up time, but also incorporate enhanced functionality, scalability, and upgradeability.

"Upgrading to 3D inspection systems from 2D inspection systems would constitute a phenomenal leap in performance for certain applications," observes Sivadevan. "Researchers currently are working toward the development of real-time autonomous robotic guidance using machine-vision systems.

Sivadevan adds the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is working with a group of universities in the U.K. to incorporate artificial intelligence in robotics. As part of its on-going project, the department of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Manchester developed a vision chip capable of foveal and peripheral vision similar to the retina of the human eye, which could be useful for factory automation applications. Defined as a smart sensor, this vision chip performs the functions of a vision sensor and a microprocessor capable of processing complex images at rapid rates, and is expected to be used in laser-guided crawlers for carrying out tasks such as machining and inspection.

Product Roundup:

Color Touchscreen
GT32 TFT 4096 color 5.5 in. (320x240 dots) touchscreen has a SD card slot (maximum 1 GB), Ethernet port and USB port for communications and updating/saving screen data. It also has a voice back feature built-in. A monochrome model with 5.7-in. panel also is offered.
Panasonic Electric Works Corp. of America
(877) 624-7872

Seeing Colors
CV-3000 high-speed vision system provides multiple color and monochrome camera connectivity using up to four cameras from eight different models. Triple-processors provide fast processing times even with two mega-pixel color cameras. Flexible memory and new software tools handle applications previously requiring application-specific systems. Inspection can be performed in hard-to-reach places using the mini-cam with a cross sectional area of only 17 mm.
Keyence
(888) keyence

Two Heads Are Better
Nexis integrated, image-acquisition subsystem features two camera heads combined with a dual-camera control unit (CCU) and frame grabber on a single PC/104-Plus card. Camera heads use interline-transfer, progressive-scan CCD image sensors with square pixels. Its available sensors include support for sub to megapixel resolutions, higher readout or frame rates, and monochrome or color imaging.
Matrox Imaging
(514) 822-6000

Small Form is a Factor
SmallFrEye_PC vision-system architecture supports multi-tasking, enabling functional blocks to be combined as needed for inspection and automatic identification tasks. Primary modules include part detection, pin 1 detection, package location, mark inspection/OCV, 2D BGA inspection, CSP pad inspection, device lead inspection, pattern recognition, package surface inspection, ECC080 and ECC200 data matrix decoding, 1D bar code decoding, OCR, and general-purpose measurement tools.

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