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Another good application for smart cameras is the inspection of glass pipettes for cracks and dimensional tolerance. Using DALSA's iNspect™ vision software on its VA30 vision system, one camera has a magnified view of the pipette tip and can detect a crack in the glass tip, Dawson explains. A second camera has a larger field of view and is used to measure the pipette's length and critical diameters. The entire system is easily integrated into the customer's existing production line."
Generally, integration of a smart camera is easier than a larger automated system. "Remember that a smart camera is a single unit, so it eliminates the need for several components [that can come from different vendors]," says Matrox's Perelli. "There's no need to assemble the components—image acquisition hardware, CPU, camera and optics. Dealing with a single vendor means a single point of contact. Should something go wrong, it will be much easier to pinpoint the location of the fault. Furthermore, if the function of the camera ever needs to change, it can be brought back to the PC and reprogrammed with the new information."
Some of the high-end cameras are application specific, says JAI's Kinney. "In these cases, within the limits of the application—barcode, simple OCR, some semiconductor types and simple inspections—the products may be easier to use. However, if you are on the edge of what they were designed for, have challenging parameters like limited lighting, or other factors, their performance becomes marginal, they have limited options and they may actually become harder to use. If it doesn't work immediately, it may be harder to get working, harder to identify what is wrong or which parameter needs modifiying, which can consume a lot of time. Thus, one of the sources of hidden costs."
Our experts say smart cameras are here to stay.
Michael Schwaer, Basler: "Smart cameras have their future in areas where a small, self-contained, powerful solution is required. Because they are easy to integrate, make less demands on the infrastructure of the environment and are able to evaluate sophisticated althorithms, they are becoming more and more relevant in an increasingly cost-conscious business environment."
Steve Kinney, JAI: "It is notable that the AIA has recently broken the smart camera market into three segments: 1) essentially the fully integrated smart sensor segment, 2) the open platform traditional smart cameras, and 3) a vision appliance [small, standalone, dedicated processor with I/O] connected to a camera. It is the addition of the third category that I think is the most interesting and more the wave of the future."