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"Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain."—Henry David Thoreau.
We still can take in Thoreau's insect view of nature (or anything else), but we don't have to "lay our eye level with her smallest leaf." Technology, of course, has made stunning advancements since those words were written in the middle of the 19th century, just prior to the Civil War when the camera was in its infancy. Even what we inspect today—let alone how—would be beyond the great conservationist's conception. Explain to him that a micron is 1,000 times smaller than a millimeter or an Angstrom is 10 million times smaller than a millimeter. Don't even think about mentioning picometers and femtometers or the poor guy would jump into his pond.
The lead story in this issue of Advanced Imaging talks about inspection and measurement, describing three of many new solutions that now are available: semiconductor measurement and inspection, cylindrical container inspection and automobile inspection. Where are we without those things? Well, maybe back with Thoreau. Maybe life would be simpler, but that's an argument for another time and place. And we certainly can't travel back in time. Yet.
In brief, the semiconductor solution involves an Automatic Teaching System (ATS), which uses machine vision to allow technicians to see inside semiconductor equipment. The ATS is designed like a wafer so it can be handled like one—it's round and with a notch for the housing. Once inside the semiconductor equipment, it uses machine vision to "see" targets that mark wafer-transfer locations and transmits their digital coordinates to the user in real time.
The solution for inspecting cylinders uses four cameras to obtain a 360-degree view of all features on the entire surface and can read barcodes, verify text, inspect graphics and measure features at production line speeds of up to 1,200 parts per minute. The beauty of this is that it no longer requires stopping and rotating each cylindrical object in front of a line scan camera that, of course, slows down the production line.