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

"Making the highest performance and highest performance-to-dollar ratio cameras requires a focused effort on the camera technology. Many smart cameras use only lower performance CMOS images. A vision system is only as good as its eyes. And, similar to performance, many machine vision applications require functionality within the camera to capture or produce the best image, including high-speed asynchronous reset, flat-field correction, look-up tables, A/D control, and a variety of flexible trigger modes. Most smart cameras fall short in this area."

APPLICATIONS

"The smart camera is well-suited to many applications as it is small, and can generate pass/fail results," says Perelli. "This can be a presence/absence detection, an OCV/OCR operation, or reading bar or matrix codes. On the other hand, web inspection, and/or line scan applications are likely to offer better performance with a traditional PC-based vision system because of the large volume of data that must be processed."

Another example of a good fit is solar panel inspection on a production line, says Schwaer. "During the production process, a smart camera acquires images of the solar wafers and detects any cracks in the wafers. An advanced algorithm is used to make each inspection and to evaluate the results witinn a few milliseconds. The decision to accept or reject a wafer is sent to the production system via the camera's digital I/O—no image is transmitted."

Another example: Three smart camera from Vision Components (Ettlingen, Germany) were used to test sintered (a method for making objects from powder, by heating the material until its particles adhere to each other) metal moldings, measuring 5mm each, in an automotive plant. The parts had to be examined for external measurements as well as true running, axial runout, inner diameter and the occurrence of ridges, injections and cracks. The required tolerance for the inner diameter and the overall axial run-out tolerance for the flanks and the front sides is 50 microns. One camera handles the true-running test and the other two determine the inner diameter and check both flank exteriors for cracks.

"The cameras operate at a measuring frequency of 72ms," says Endre Toth, Director of Business Development for Vision Component's U.S. office in Hudson, N.H. "The overall cycle time of the system depends on the number of individual measurements per true running test. In this particular application case with 15 measurements, the system reaches a cycle time of 3.2 seconds. The testing facility provides high measuring accuracy: in the true running and the diameter test, the measurement uncertainty is less than 1µm. It ensures reliable, precise and fast quality control—such extensive checks could not be realized by means of conventional mechanical methods."



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