Machine Vision Systems
What is machine vision?
Machine vision is the enabling technology and systems comprising smart cameras, lighting, lenses and software that allow images to be produced, analysed and acted upon by applications such as automatic inspection, process control, and robot guidance. Machine Vision was developed in the 1970’s and continues to develop today as technology advances and is mostly associated with industrial environments. If planned and installed correctly, machine vision will provide efficiency gains in many industrial settings for long term benefits. Implemented on most modern production lines, you can find a list of applications below.
MV differs from human vision in that it helps companies to solve complicated, detailed industrial tasks reliably, consistently and at speed whilst avoiding typical human errors. The advantage of machine vision over human is that these systems don’t suffer from boredom or tiredness. They work as hard in the last minute of a task as they do in the first one.
Industrial vision systems rely on hardware (cameras) and software (such as our own GenVis and RoboVis) to capture and interpret images from an appropriately lit industrial environment. When the software automatically detects errors or mistakes on a product being manufactured as part of an industrial process, it will stop the product from entering the supply chain by interrupting the manufacturing process to remove or correct the product. Alternatively, it can detect certain shapes and instruct a robot to act on them. Typical examples would include inspection of labels or picking and placing a component onto a conveyor. Machine vision components and products are also used in the security world and increasingly in automatic driving vehicles.
Machine vision technology can also be used to count, calibrate, test, monitor and collect data. These are often repetitive tasks requiring thousands of checks per hour or even minute. Vision systems are designed to be far better at this than people for obvious reasons such as they are more accurate than a human, measuring against agreed parameters much more reliably. The end outcome is increased efficiency, faster processes, better compliance and reduced errors leading ultimately to savings and increased profitability.
Industrial vision systems are used to solve real world problems. Understanding how to approach the problem, what cameras, lenses, lighting and software to use can be a minefield. Fisher Smith have the technical ability, experience and a wealth of knowledge to be the leaders in solving difficult industrial problems. Get in touch to see how we can help and advise you.
Systems can be very simple with cameras detecting a binary position – something is either there or it isn’t. Depending on the answer, the outcome can be controlled by software that will tell a robot or machine what to do next. Measure the amount of light itself and the system has already become more complex with the ability to create images which can then be interpreted. Colour sensing makes the process more complex once more.
Machine vision and applications
There are many different applications in industrial environments. Just some of the projects Fisher Smith have researched include:
Machine Vision Applications
- Label inspection on products
- Robot guidance
- Traceability of manufactured products
- Medical vial inspection
- Verifying engineered components
- Engine part inspection
- Final inspection cells
- Checking orientation of components
- Checking laser marks and cuts
- Reading bar codes
- Final inspection of sub-assemblies
- Checking medical devices for defects
- Verifying datamatrix codes
- Packaging Inspection
- Food pack checks
Machine vision cameras and lenses
Machine vision cameras ‘see’ locations or objects and collect image data to aid automation in industrial processes. The camera lense and optics components work together with the camera sensors which all come together to image focused light. There are many different types of cameras with a myriad of choices in lens, components and sensors. Making the right choices is critical to having a reliable, 100% accurate system. Fisher Smith’s expertise is in putting together all of these elements along with the right software to find a working solution to industrial problems.
To optimize the vision system, the camera needs to be matched with the appropriate lens. Optimising a system is paramount for best results. Matching a camera with a lens with the correct fixed focal length, field of view and sensor size are the key considerations to think through.
Cameras come in many different formats. These include smart cameras, cooled cameras, thermal cameras, network cameras, board level cameras, 3D cameras, line scan cameras and area scan cameras.
Fisher Smith can also supply a wide range of camera accessories such as mounting adapters, capture cards and cables.
Machine vision lighting
A machine vision system is only as good as the lighting environment on the target space or product. This is in no way as simple as flicking on a standard florescent light, it is a critical part of a machine vision solution and the correct technology must be adopted for optimal results. Fisher Smith have the knowledge and experience plus access to all the major machine vision lighting solutions to make sure the right lights are chosen for your system. Types of light include:
- Line lights – uniform lighting over a wide field of view.
- Area lights – common, rectangular lighting.
- LED lighting – consistent, reliable and robust.
- Co-axial lights – diffused, uniform light ideal for flat and reflective surfaces.
- Spot lights – focussed light from a long working distance away.
- Darkfield lights – used to produce sharp contrasts surface features.
- Structured lights – can use lasers and measure 3D objects.
- Dome lights – uniform lighting best used on uneven surfaces.
- Back light – diffused lighting great at outlining components and holes in objects
- Telecentric lights – high contrast lighting ideal for measurement applications.
- Ring lights – allows a camera to see directly through the middle of the light
- Smart lights – the Vicolux range can provide a constant light whatever the changing conditions
Machine Vision Software
Machine vision software enables organisations to design, utilise and control vision applications. The software will interpret visual imagery often against set parameters in order to control a resultant action. Typical data analysis done by software includes pattern recognition, object location, blob analysis, temperature measurement, 3D measurement and alignment issues.
Software for machine vision can build both 2D and 3D images, can be done in black and white, colour, digital and analogue, will integrate with smart cameras and of course, process images.
Choosing the right software for your application is difficult with so many options available. Technology has progressed whilst operating has become easier but it is still a complex area to navigate. Taking the software decision lightly would be a mistake and equal time should be spent assessing this as is spent looking at machine vision hardware. Things to consider include the demands of your application, processing power and memory needs. The software will need to integrate and be compatible with other components where communication is involved. Advanced programming can be necessary but will move your costs up so future considerations must be explored.
Finally, choose an established vendor with a full support service. You don’t know what you don’t know and support will be needed at some stage in the future as technology moves forward.
One word of caution, don’t confuse machine vision with computer vision. You can read about the differences here.
Machine Vision Systems – why use Fisher Smith?
Our company provides complete machine vision systems to handle, inspect and pack your product. Experienced Fisher Smith experts project manage these systems and, where required, use trusted automation partners to supply specialist non-vision elements. Fisher Smith have extensive experience in providing systems across diverse industry sectors including automotive, medical and aerospace, both in the UK and globally.
Machine vision systems need to be robust enough to work in an industrial environment whilst also being capable of operating in different temperatures and being 100% reliable. A total understanding of cameras, lenses, lighting, staging and software is required for the perfect solution. Fisher Smith have this understanding and the experience to put it into place.
Fisher Smith work closely with customers to ensure the right solution is specified and quoted at the right price. Not all machine vision companies or manufacturers are as vigilant.
In the early stages of the process Fisher Smith provide consultation, answer FAQ’s, provide evaluations and reports to support the quotation package, which covers all of the key components including lighting, optics and vision processing.
Appropriate levels of advice and information are given to automation companies, end users and OEMs.
Integration and support for machine vision systems
Fisher Smith have extensive experience of installing machine vision systems into new or existing machines.
Communication with customers is key to ensure that all mechanical and electrical details are provided and the parameters for the vision system to work reliably are clearly defined. This ensures that the installation and commissioning phases are smooth and the system proves reliable and robust in operation.
The appropriate level of support is always provided, remaining involved as your system goes live, to manage any necessary process enhancements or adjustments to take account of product variations. Usually some sample products are requested to evaluate and then Fisher Smith can report back to you with a quotation and images of your product.
Fisher Smith enjoy the challenge of developing the optimum solution for an application, but are happy to quote for any level of involvement in your project, from machine vision consultancy to supply of parts only, provision of a full fixed price system or full integration.