How do you think the new GigE standards will influence the machine vision industry?
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By George Kotelly
In the past, developers of ultra-high-speed vision systems have mostly used image-processing and frame-grabber boards to analyze images acquired from industrial cameras. In general, image-processing boards function as frame-grabbers but with on-board logic that can analyze images. These processing boards come in many flavors, from multi-purpose x-86-based computers to special Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)-based devices.
As PC processors continue to boost speed and memory at decreasing costs, engineers are investigating their use instead of dedicated image-processing boards. As tempting as this option appears, it is often limited by the PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) bus speed of 133 Mbytes of data per second.
However, the recent introduction of faster PCI Express technology has diminished the transfer bottleneck between camera and host CPU. Most new image-processing boards are now used in one of two ways to help process multiple images: to work in parallel or to preprocess images.
Several communications interface standards also have contributed greatly to the surging implementation success of integrating digital cameras and image-processing boards into machine-vision systems, including Camera Link, IEEE 1394 (FireWire), GigE (Gigabit Ethernet) Vision, and PCI Express.
Under the direction of the Automated Imaging Association (AIA, www.machinevi siononline.org), Camera Link and GigE Vision are connectivity standards for interfacing digital cameras and frame grabbers. Camera Link specifications define data transmission, camera control, and asynchronous serial communications, all on a single cable. As a result, only two connections (power and Camera Link) via a single MDR-26 pin connector are needed. Benefits include: easy product interchange, simple interface, small and inexpensive cables, image data to 28 bits, and data rates to 2.3 Gbytes/sec. Similarly, GigE Vision is delivering data rates to 1 Gbit/sec over Ethernet networks.