Advanced Imaging

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Advanced Imaging Magazine

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

Intelligence in Action

The smart camera approach to vision
Figure 1
© Microview Lingzhi
Figure1: The user interface shows the results from reading an electricity meter. The imaging software allows the smart camera to read multiple data types simultaneously. In this case, the application reads a bar code and numerals.
Figure 2
© Vision Solutions International
Figure 2: The robot paints camouflage patterns on a military vehicle; the smart camera processes the images to determine the vehicle's coordinate system.
Left to right: A bottle that passes inspection; an over-pressed bottle opening; the binary image of the over-pressed bottle with the defect highlighted
© Spectral Process
Left to right: A bottle that passes inspection; an over-pressed bottle opening; the binary image of the over-pressed bottle with the defect highlighted. Click here to view larger image.
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By Sarah Sookman, Matrox Imaging

At the Shanghai Electric Power Corp., a worker retrieves an electricity meter from a bin and places it under a camera. When the camera is in place, the worker takes a picture of the meter's final reading so imaging software can read it and store the numbers in a database. In a European bottle plant, a camera takes pictures of a bottle's opening to check for defects from the glass process. At a U. S. Marine Corps Depot, a camera's images give a robot the necessary coordinates to paint a military vehicle.

As different as these applications are, they share a common feature. They all use a smart camera for image acquisition and processing.

In a traditional vision system, a camera acquires an image and transfers it to a host computer that processes it and extracts data from its pixel values. A smart camera has its own processor, so it can acquire and process image data and then transfer the results to other automation equipment and/or HMI panel. You could even think of a smart camera as a camera-sized computer, or a computer with optics; either way, smart cameras have made their way into mainstream imaging applications.

The engineers behind the electricity meter reading, bottle inspection, and vehicle painting applications opted for the smart camera platform. What made the smart camera a right choice for those applications? Factors of cost, flexibility and software support all came into play.

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