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Machine Vision Issues for Automation

Machine vision has experienced a rapid rise during the last years.

Peter Ebert, pebert@sps-magazin.de, editor for sensors, industrial vision and measurement for SPS Magazin in Germany.
Peter Ebert, pebert@sps-magazin.de, editor for sensors, industrial vision and measurement for SPS Magazin in Germany.

But what are the current trends or the future markets? Here is a brief look at some topics that currently affect machine vision applications. In future issues of SPS Magazin, we will go deeper into these topics.

Machine vision with 3D is strongly on the upswing. Applications, like robot vision for example, which were hardly realizable so far, can now be solved remarkable faster by using new optical methods and better computer capabilities. Even vision sensors are more and more able to master 3D tasks. But the upcoming question is: Are users willing to pay the price for 3D solutions or do they instead prefer low cost, but less elegant solutions?

Waiting for USB3 vision. The interface discussion is as old as the fieldbus discussion in automation. Every time we think all claims are set up, new interfaces appear. At the last Vision conference, many camera producers brought the USB 3.0-interface (SuperSpeed USB) into focus for their prospective products. This specially-designed-for-machine-vision standard shall be set at this year’s “Vision Show” and offers a bandwidth of 3.2 Gb/s. Power supply and data transfer occurs through one passive cable with a length of 5m or an active cable with a length up to 10m.

Seeing the invisible. That machine vision can see much more than humans is especially evident with spectral imaging, which uses cameras that work outside of the wavelength of human vision, such as infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV) cameras. The applications for such spectra imaging systems include the sorting of minerals, food and plastic waste.

Less-costly cameras. Because of the price situation, machine vision has been a mainly industrial issue for years. But because camera prices have decreased in recent years, machine vision is increasingly being used in more price sensitive fields like agriculture or intelligent traffic systems. Medical engineering is another key application area. It even has its own special exhibition at the Vision Show in Stuttgart.

Easy to use? All areas of automation have promoted the word “usability” for years. However, “easy to use” in machine vision is extremely necessary, because the number of machine vision experts is inadequate. Therefore, future products have to be intuitively operable to be successful. That this isn’t always easy, as shown in the case of vision sensors. These products are indeed easy to handle, but demand basic knowledge of machine vision anyway. Meanwhile, sensor producers have realized that and have made their products instantly ready for use—and users today don’t have to call the service hotline multiple times.

>> Peter Ebert, pebert@sps-magazin.de, is the new editor for sensors, industrial vision and measurement for SPS Magazin in Germany. He comes from the most famous industrial vision magazine in Germany and was chief editor for an automation and measurement magazine for 14 years. 

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