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Industrial Applications for Embedded Vision

Computer vision processing-based products have established themselves in a number of industrial applications, with the most prominent one being factory automation (where the application is commonly referred to as machine vision). IHS identifies the primary factory automation sectors as:

  • Automotive — motor vehicle and related component manufacturing
  • Chemical & Pharmaceutical — chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants and related industries
  • Packaging — packaging machinery, packaging manufacturers and dedicated packaging companies not aligned to any one industry
  • Robotics — guidance of robots and robotic machines
  • Semiconductors & Electronics — semiconductor machinery makers, semiconductor device manufacturers, electronic equipment manufacturing and assembly facilities

What are the primary embedded vision products used in factory automation applications?

The primary embedded vision products used in factory automation applications are:

  • Smart Sensors — A single unit that is designed to perform a single machine vision task. Smart sensors require little or no configuring and have limited on-board processing. Frequently a lens and lighting are also incorporated into the unit.
  • Smart Cameras — This is a single unit that incorporates a machine vision camera, a processor and I/O in a compact enclosure. Smart cameras are configurable and so can be used for a number of different applications. Most have the facility to change lenses and are also available with built-in LED lighting.
  • Compact Vision System — This is a complete machine vision system, not based on a PC, consisting of one or more cameras and a processor module. Some products have an LCD screen incorporated as part of the processor module. This obviates the need to connect the devices to a monitor for set-up. The principal feature that distinguishes compact vision systems (CVS) from smart cameras is their ability to take information from a number of cameras. This can be more cost-effective where an application requires multiple images.
  • Machine Vision Cameras (MV Cameras) — These are devices that convert an optical image into an analogue or digital signal. This may be stored in random access memory, but not processed, within the device.
  • Frame Grabbers — This is a device (usually a PCB card) for interfacing the video output from a camera with a PC or other control device. Frame grabbers are sometimes called video-capture boards or cards. They vary from being a simple interface to a more complex device that can handle many functions including triggering, exposure rates, shutter speeds and complex signal processing.
  • Machine Vision Lighting — This refers to any device that is used to light a scene being viewed by a machine-vision camera or sensor. This report considers only those devices that are designed and marketed for use in machine-vision applications in an industrial automation environment.
  • Machine Vision Lenses — This category includes all lenses used in a machine-vision application, whether sold with a camera or as a spare or additional part.
  • Machine Vision Software — This category includes all software that is sold as a product in its own right, and is designed specifically for machine-vision applications. It is split into:
    • Library Software — allows users to develop their own MV system architecture. There are many different types, some offering great flexibility. They are often called SDKs (Software Development Kits).
    • System Software — which is designed for a particular application. Some are very comprehensive and require little or no set-up.

Who are the main suppliers of embedded vision products in industrial applications?

There are more than 50 companies supplying the aforementioned hardware to the machine vision market. Some of the leading vendors include companies such as AVT, Basler, Cognex, Dalsa, IDS, Keyence, Matrix Vision, Omron, Sony, and Stemmer.