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Let’s ensure that your machine vision applications all will be successful and reliable now and in the future
The successful application of machine vision technology involves an intricately and carefully balanced mix of a variety of elements. While the hardware components that perform the tasks of image formation, acquisition, component control, and interfacing are decidedly critical to the solution, machine vision software is the engine “under the hood” that supports and drives the imaging, processing, and ultimately the results. This discussion will detail the various ways software impacts industrial machine vision systems and how it is applied to achieve a complete solution within different component architectures. We also will take a brief look at general design and specification criteria and current trends in software that might contribute to greater reliability in some machine vision tasks for industrial automation.
Background: Machine vision system and software architectures
The diverse marketplace for machine vision technology features components and systems with widely varying architectures. While software is an essential part of any system, the “look and feel” of the software and the way it interacts with the components is different depending on the physical system architecture. Let’s start with a brief review of machine vision systems.
Many systems available for industrial machine vision feature a manufacturer-specific imaging device directly linked or tethered to a proprietary computing platform with a proprietary operating system. That might sound like a complex structure but what it really describes are the easy-to-use products commonly called “smart cameras” in the machine vision market. More simply put, smart cameras (and similar architectures) are completely packaged vision systems which include all imaging and computing devices needed to execute a machine vision task as a stand-alone component.
In contrast to smart cameras, other commonly implemented machine vision systems have a completely open architecture where a general-purpose imaging device (that is, a camera or sensor appropriate to the needs of the application) is linked to a standard computing platform running a commercial operating system. The interface from camera to computer most often uses one of several industry-standard image transfer physical protocols.