Advanced Imaging

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Advanced Imaging Magazine

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

The Hard Facts of Imaging Software

Three issues to consider when choosing a software package
passing metal hook
© Courtesy Matrox Imaging
failed metal hook
© Courtesy Matrox Imaging
The Matrox Imaging Library’s Metrology module shows a metal hook that passes inspection (top), and one that fails (bottom).
Tessera’s OptiML™ Focus technology
© Tessera
Tessera’s OptiML™ Focus technology provides mobile devices with auto-focus functionality that enables fully focused images, at all points, without the need for moving parts.
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By Sarah Sookman, Matrox Imaging

When you're surveying the real estate market for a new home, you likely will consider your needs; purchasing a two-bedroom condo if you have three children might not be the best choice. Similarly, if you're in the machine vision/imaging business you might have to purchase a software package, or re-evaluate your existing one.

The fundamental goals of any vision system are threefold: capture, process (analyze), and display. All three of these steps require some kind of software, whether it's for capturing video over the physical medium of choice, locating and/or measuring objects, or creating the HMI.

The first issue is "build versus buy" and defines what your software toolkit should include if you choose the "buy" route. The next issue describes how you should evaluate the image processing functionality itself. And last, but not least, because it typically is an afterthought, there are a few words to say about display.

Program or purchase?

Are you writing your own software from scratch or basing it on someone else's? If you write the source code, the upside is full control over the software; you authored it. Algorithm development is complex work, and people who design algorithms typically have PhDs in mathematics or computer science/engineering. With absolute control, though, comes responsibility of cost and maintenance. Software maintenance? That's right. When new processors and operating systems hit the market, you'll want your software to take full advantage of them, but you or your company might not have the resources to test and exploit the latest computer technology. Then there's the issue of test images. You need a set showing the good, borderline, and defective parts you want to automatically inspect but this representative set is not static—certain issues might only appear in time, and might need to be addressed at the algorithm-level.

Machine vision vendors like Matrox Imaging are in the business of software development. They have developers with the necessary skills set to develop and maintain image-processing algorithms, as well as the resources to make the most of next-generation processors and operating systems. Some companies even have decades of vision experience. They should be happy to look at your sample images, offer advice and help get your project off the ground. If you decide to purchase an off-the-shelf kit from a reputable vendor, you can save a lot of development time.

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