Machine Vision Market Stays Strong

Smart Cameras and Greater Scalability Drive Innovations in Discrete Manufacturing

By Rick Pedraza

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.
(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.
Value Engineering Alliance
(617) 492-1252

The Third Dimension
IVC-3D smart camera combines imaging and analysis for inspection, location, and measurement of objects in one housing unit. It can direct a robot, machine or conveyor without a PC externally attached, and can communicate through I/O, serial, and Ethernet connections. Up to 5,000 profile sections/sec combine to create a 3D image. Measurement areas are 150x50 mm with a resolution of 0.04 mm, or 60x200 mm with 0.2 mm resolution.
(952) 941-6780

GigE Connectivity
iPort FB1000-CL IP engine provides fiber-based GigE connections between base-configuration Camera Link cameras and PCs. Features include deterministic, continuous data transfer at 1 Gb/s; end-to-end latency delay of less than 500 ms; a built-in PLC for real-time synchronization and triggering; an integrated small form-factor pluggable fiber transceiver; and a device driver that streams data to PC memory with minimal CPU load.
Pleora Technologies
(613) 270-0625

No PLC Required
Checker 101E machine-vision sensor uses patterns to detect and inspect parts. It directly accepts encoder signals, eliminating the need for a PLC when tracking and rejecting parts on variable-speed production line, and can acquire and process more than 500 images/sec. Step-by-step setup makes it simple for anyone on the factory floor to deploy.
(877) cognex1

What a Sight
PicSight machine vision cameras allow you to pick image characteristics, such as resolution and speed, from a selection of modules based on CCD or CMOS sensors. User selects the preferred way of transferring images (GigE, Camera Link, etc.) from interface modules, or chooses in-camera processing with a Smart Processing Module. Cameras can be controlled through .Net, VB, C/C++ for Windows, Linux, or VxWorks.
Leutron Vision
(781) 238-0213

Let in the Light
CS8550DiF monochrome video camera (49x35x98 mm) works in lighting conditions down to 4.0 Lux with backlight compensation and electronic-shutter functions that compensate for bright lighting sources. It provides 60 frames/sec double-speed, non-compressed VGA output (640x480), and offers plug-and-play with a Firewire IEEE1394 interface (400 Mbps) that allows full control by a PC without a framegrabber. Features include random-trigger shutter and compatibility with standard C-mount lenses.
Toshiba Teli America
(949) 770-teli

Providing for Two
VA20 vision appliance provides support for one or two cameras with choice of sensor resolution. Housed in a compact, DIN-mountable enclosure, the unit is equipped with industrial-grade inputs and outputs that are wired using removable screw-terminal connectors. A visible LED active-status light is coupled to each connection. I/O and external interfaces are accessible from the front of the unit. Application setup software is preinstalled and ready to run.
(978) 670-2002

A Need for Speed
ZFV 2D smart vision sensor provides speeds of four, six or 12 ms and sensing views of 5-50 mm. Intelligent lighting optimizes image quality, and the ability to adjust focus maximizes measurement accuracy. Images are transmitted digitally from sensor head to an amplifier, and between amplifiers for clearer images. An LCD monitor displays real-time inspection images and can be panel mounted to eliminate separate monitoring equipment.
Omron Electronics
(866) 88-omron

Machine Vision Software Suite
Vision 8 development module combines a collection of vision libraries with acquisition software for thousands of cameras, including those based on IEEE 1394. The software suite is optimized for common programming environments, and includes new algorithms for golden template comparison, optical character verification, JPEG2000 file I/O support, and data-matrix grading to help identify packaging and assembly errors earlier in production.
National Instruments
(800) 800-8662

Bridging the Gap
LightPix AE20 vision sensor offers six interchangeable inspection packages that include color judgment, color area, color pattern matching, measurement, edge detection, and peak detection. It provides connectivity to a PLC and HMI, aluminum IP67 construction, and an optical red LED light for easy height adjustment.
Panasonic Electric Works
(908) 464-3550

Models Come Equipped
VC4016 and VC4018 smart color cameras feature DSPs with a clock rate of 400 MHz and a computing power of 3,200 MIPS. At 1024x768 and 640x480 pixels, respectively, the cameras offer a frame rate of 16 or 32 fps. Both come equipped with 32 MB DRAM and 4 MB Flash EPROM for program and data storage. Included are four PLC inputs and four outputs, and an RS232 and Ethernet interface.
Vision Components

Making an Impact
Impact A-10 intelligent camera with smart software delivers inspection capabilities in a vision-sensor profile. Three modules allow for quick setup, storage, and viewing of captured images through the entire application, even as inspection requirements change. Features include a microprocessor and real-time operating system, and a digital imaging sensor. An array of discrete, serial, and Ethernet I/O makes it compatible with a variety of industrial control equipment and instrumentation.
PPT Vision
(952) 996-9500

Sensor Sees
Selcom EyeCon-2 laser line sensor detects small bulges or depressions in tire sidewalls during inspection. The sensor provides accurate surface data, even on the steep edges of raised lettering or embossed geometric features, without data drop outs. It has dual-vision cameras in one sensor housing that see at a sample rate of 2 kHz. Defects are captured at 2,000 profiles/sec.
LMI Technologies
(770) 888-6586

Something for Everyone
HMI models range from low-end to high-end. The CTM-150 offers a basic 16-character text display, an industrial operator keypad and basic RS232 connectivity. The high-end LANpointXL offers full-screen color graphics with a touchscreen for inputs. It also offers wired or wireless Ethernet connectivity, along with standard serial communications and NEMA4 environmental specs.
Intelligent Instrumentation
(800) 685-9911

Three-step Configuration
Fx Series panel industrial computers use a three-step configuration. Users first choose the front-panel operator interface from different display sizes, bezels and touchscreen options. Second, users choose the industrial chassis required for the application. Third, users configure their system with various processor, operating system, memory and media storage options.
Dynics-Ann Arbor Technologies
(734) 677-6100

Programmable HMI Solution
8201iTM programmable HMI indicator/controller allows users to automate formula selection, batch startup, data recall or any frequently used process with the push of a button. PC-based software is standard. Using graphical flow charts eliminates complicated code generation.
Rice Lake Weighing Systems
(715) 234-9171

No Bigger Than an Attache Case
Model FLP-200 portable computer has an Intel T2500 2 GHz Core Duo processor backed by a minimum of 512 MB of memory (expandable to 2 GB). Typical applications are testing, data logging and video recording for factory floor environments.
ACME Portable Machines
(626) 610-1888