Advanced Imaging

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Advanced Imaging Magazine

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

Is a Smart Camera Right for You?

Our experts discuss the pros and cons of their growing popularity
JAI smart camera
© JAI
A JAI smart camera in an all-weather housing, overlooks a European transponderless toll area. A built-in power PC processor is used to isolate the license plate area in the image and extract the plate data which is then output to a back-office system for toll collection.
5mm metal molding
© Vision Components
An automotive plant uses smart cameras from Vision Components to inspect 5mm metal moldings on the line.
magnified view of the tip of a glass pipette
© DALSA
A magnified view of the tip of a glass pipette using a DALSA VA30 vision system. It is looking for cracks in the pipette.
Basler's Excite smart camera
© Basler
Basler's Excite smart camera.
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By Barry Hochfelder

Smart cameras are taking on increasingly more demanding industrial tasks. By definition, they are self-contained units that perform image processing on board. The data can be sent on to a third-party device like a PC or, for example, when performing pass/fail exams on an assembly line, can send a shut-down order to the machine. Their size, robustness and—in many applications—ease of use, often can make them more attractive than a PC-based system, says Ben Dawson, Director of Strategic Development at DALSA IPD (Billerica, Mass.).

We talked to a number of camera manufacturers, who discussed the advantages, disadvantages and future of smart cameras.

ADVANTAGES

Smart cameras are gaining ground in the industrial arena, says Michael Schwaer, product manager at Basler Components (Ahrensburg, Germany). "They are used for quality control, object measurement and other demanding applications. They contain an integrated processing unit that allows them to evaluate specific algorithms with respect to captured images. So a smart camera is able to produce control instructions or a measurement result without the need for additional hardware. The concept is more flexible and cost-effective than a PC-based system solution.

"An additional advantage is reliability," he adds. "A system with several smart cameras is more reliable than a PC-based solution. If one camera fails, the rest of the cameras will still work properly. If a PC fails, the entire system will collapse."

Space-savings is another advantage, says Fabio Perelli, Product Manager at Matrox Imaging (Dorval, Quebec, Canada). "A smart camera can be considered a camera-sized computer, one that can acquire and process image data before it leaves the camera," he says. "Since a smart camera is a self-contained device, they provide an alternative for applications that are limited by physical space."

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