We all understand the important part machine vision and industrial cameras has played over the years in accelerating business performance. Not only that – it has also opened new possibilities for advanced process automation, robotics and artificial intelligence; technologies that will revolutionize the world in the coming years.
Let’s talk a little about industrial cameras and how they offer high performance and increase productivity. In 2011, The International Society of Automation published an article stating that advances in machine vision (MV) technology are creating new opportunities to increase productivity, quality, and efficiency in a wide range of applications.
The article further pointed out the famous straight-line illusion (depicted below) and how machine vision can help businesses get rid of these biases during inspection and quality assurance, all the while improving performance.
Figure 1 - The Straight-Line Illusion (Source: ISA)
Case Study: Video Monitoring
Industrial cameras have applications in every industry. Blast furnaces, for example, can leverage industrial machine vision to keep detailed track of furnace temperature, burner health and other important factors that impact output.
Digital video technology is now being used for continuous monitoring of the burner flames of furnaces, heaters, and boilers to provide feedback. Traditionally, the operation of fired heaters has been monitored and adjusted by experienced engineers and operators.
These heaters had a door on the side through which engineers would inspect and report back. Based on experience, they adjust various parameters to make the furnace operate safer and efficiently.
Industrial machine vision has since then made the job seamless for engineers. Automated camera systems now provide continuous reports to operate the burners within parameters, and enable staff to prevent breakage or any damage.
The smallest leaks or pinhole damages can now be detected as they occur. Alerts and warning information is sent to the control room for immediate response to a burner requiring attention.
According to an article published by the AIA in 2014, machine vision automation allows companies to produce more, faster, and at less cost than manual operations. The article also pointed out that the word “productivity” is in fact not just limited to quantifiable returns on investment and increasing throughput but is also inclusive of many qualitative factors, such as image quality and depth of field, which might be difficult to quantify altogether.
It is important to understand that while high speed industrial cameras help optimize efficiency, there are also a lot of qualitative indicators at play that businesses leverage.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about the technology advancements that the machine vision industry has made over the past few years and how at Emergent Vision Technologies, we are always at the heart of innovation to bring the most advanced machine vision systems for our clients.
1. The growing adoption of CMOS imaging sensors
CMOS was believed to be the more efficient alternative to the CCD camera sensors. In its early stages, a standard CMOS sensor could produce an image consuming half the power, but with considerably more image noise.
Over the years, the performance of a CMOS image sensor has greatly improved in terms of image quality. For example, Sony Industrial Camera with CMOS imaging sensors use the low-noise CCD structure and parallel A/D conversion to account for faster speeds and lower image noise.
Figure 2 - Sony's Pregius Parallel A/D Conversion Circuit vs. Conventional CMOS imaging. (Source: Sony)
At EVT, we are one of the early adopters of CMOS imaging sensors for all our products. We partner with and use cutting-edge products of global leaders such as Myricom, Sony and CMOSIS to use only the best CMOS sensor technology in our machine vision systems. The result? We manufactured the world’s first 50-megapixel CMOS camera and received industry-wide acclaim for our efforts.
To know more about our partnerships with global machine vision technology leaders, please click here.
2. Industrial Cameras: Color Correction
While most cameras use a standard Bayer pattern for RGB colors, some machine vision cameras realize the need for color correction to enhance image details. To address this, machine vision manufacturers introduce the Color Correction Matrix, through which the noise in an image is spread over to each pixel’s neighbors. The noise in the different color channels is correlated to each other.
We recently introduced the CCM technology for all our EVT-HR color cameras as well as our Sony Pregius camera series. You can get to know more about how CCM works in this video, where our President Mr. John Ilett demonstrated one of our Sony Pregius cameras at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, earlier this year.
3. 10 GigE Vision
Another advancement is the introduction of 10 GigE Vision for machine vision systems and industrial cameras. 10 GigE is the latest industry benchmark for communications protocol, and provides as much as ten times the bandwidth for data transmission over its predecessor; the GigE Vision.
EVT was the first camera manufacturer in the world to introduce 10 GigE industrial camera to machine vision systems. We started commercially shipping our cameras over 6 years ago. We were also the first to successfully integrate 10 GigE with a 50-megapixel camera, the EVT HR 50000, an industrial camera built for high-precision, high-speed and high-quality imaging.
We now provide a complete range of best industrial cameras powered by the 10 GigE Vision interface to address various machine vision needs of our customers.
4. 25 GigE Vision
The most important advancement the machine vision industry made was the introduction of 25 GigE Vision, becoming one of the very first industries to successfully integrate the 25 Gigabit Ethernet protocol. 25 GigE provides 2.5 times the speed of 10 GigE, and a 25-fold increase in speed over the standard GigE Vision interface.
25 GigE can easily be operated using the industry standard SFP28 connection type without the need for expensive fiber connectors. This allows 25 GigE Vision systems to be operated with distances ranging from 1 meter up to 10 kilometers.
We are proud to share that yet again, EVT was one of the first camera manufacturers in the world to commercially launch 25 GigE industrial cameras. Our commitment to providing the most intuitive machine vision technology to our customers was also recognized by the Vision Systems Design Innovators Awards this year, where we grabbed Gold and Platinum for our cutting-edge 25 GigE cameras.
The future of machine vision and high-performance industrial imaging
When it comes to talking about the future of machine vision, there are infinite possibilities that come to mind. From molecular inspection all the way to inspecting every component that goes in an out of a ship’s container, the applications of machine vision systems greatly vary.
And with these variable needs come varying appetites. For some businesses, image quality at high speeds is all that matters, while for some it is more about getting the cost-benefit ratio right while meeting their needs.
An article published by Embedded Vision predicts that neural networks might just be the future of machine vision. The article makes an excellent point regarding how machine vision systems can be used to separate apples from pears.
There are many technological advancements where machine vision is acting as an important enabler. Vision for robotics, artificial intelligence and fully autonomous production processes are a few to name here.
A lot has changed over the years and continues to change as needs for high-speed, high-performance imaging surface. Businesses are increasingly relying machine vision to maximize ROI and minimize operational costs. This demand-supply relationship has proven to make the industrial camera market very competitive, which in turn yields cutting-edge innovation.
What are your thoughts on how machine vision has improved productivity over the years? We’d love to read your experiences. Let us know in the comments below.
To know more about Emergent Vision Technologies, please click here.