Advanced Imaging

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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Here to Stay

Technology is advancing, but frame grabbers aren't going anywhere
The Euresys Grablink series
© Euresys
The Euresys Grablink series of high-speed PCI, PCI Express and Compact PCI frame grabbers are designed for line-scan or area-scan digital Camera Link cameras.
The DALSA X64 Xcelera-CL PX4 Dual frame grabber
© DALSA
The DALSA X64 Xcelera-CL PX4 Dual frame grabber uses a PCI Express point-to-point host interface that allows simultaneous image acquisition and transfer without loading the system bus and involves little intervention from the host CPU.
Matrox's Solios GigE NIC
© Matrox Imaging
Matrox's Solios GigE NIC with customizable FPGA-based processing core captures images from frame and line-scan cameras. It filters packets from up to four GigE Vision streams and has a 64 MB acquisition buffer.
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By Barry Hochfelder

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the report of the death of frame grabbers has been greatly exaggerated. Even with the surge in smart cameras and, of course, the trend to more and more digital rather than analog cameras, the traditional frame grabber still provides a solid solution to many machine vision applications.
A decade ago people were predicting the demise of the frame grabber, and it hasn't happened yet, points out Dwayne Crawford, product manager at Matrox Imaging (Dorval, Quebec, Canada). "I can't see it disappearing from machine vision anytime soon."

Smart cameras, of course, have their place "if they perform the required application and are cost effective," says Chuck Peterson of Epix, Inc. (Buffalo Grove, Ill.). "They take longer to develop and are years behind the latest performance capability that can be obtained from the latest desktop multiprocessing systems."

Marc Damhaut, Singapore-based Vice President Product Marketing at Euresys (Angleur, Belgium), says smart camera limitations are primarily in terms of processing power. "These limitations mainly come from the need to keep the smart camera body compact and the heat dissipated as low as possible."

Peterson says, "If the application requires the latest development in processors—and there are many small mini ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) motherboards available for $100 with small cases to enclose them—then it is very hard to beat a frame grabber. The frame grabber typically has much greater data throughput and image processing power in the desktop system than any smart camera can have. The frame grabber base systems also have the advantage of being easily customized to the application requirements. Number and speed of processors, amount of SDRAM, flash drive, hard drives and graphics processors can all be configured to meet the requirements."

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