Monday, May 24, 2010

Imaging battles Gulf oil disaster

Satellite imaging and paricle image velocimetry are two of the imaging techniques being deployed against the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A May 22 article in the New York Times describes several of the techniques that researchers are using to try a get an accurate measurement of the oil spill.

One approach is described in more detail by one of the Times authors, Steve Wereley at Purdue University, in a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Oil Flow Rate Analysis – Deepwater Horizons Accident”. He predicts that the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill is more than 50 times worse than initial BP predictions.

Using an imaging technique called particle image velocimetry (PIV), Wereley analyzed video obtained from BP to compute the magnitude of oil flowing from the site. According to his presentation, Wereley estimates that between 56,000 and 84,000 barrels a day are currently pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Doug Suttle, chief operating officer for BP, initially said he thinks the estimate of 1,000 barrels a day is accurate, although BP is now admitting they have underestimated the amount of oil leaking.

To obtain his figures, Wereley computed the average plume velocity of the oil using PIV techniques, multiplied this figure by the cross-sectional area to find the volume flow rate, and then converted this figure to barrels per day.

PIV is an optical method of fluid visualization. It is used to obtain instantaneous velocity measurements and related properties in fluids. By measuring features in the fluid, motion of these features is used to calculate velocity information of the flow being studied.

A live video of the oil leak, provided by BP over Ustream is available on - search: live oil spill cam.

All this imaging doesn't even take into account the dozen or so remote underwater vehicles that are now in operation near the sea bed, around the leak, streaming video back to a control center in Houston.

The oil spill is a disaster that maybe imaging and machine vision can help understand and moderate.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Machine vision lives in Iran

While cruising the Bosphorus I met a vision system integrator from Tehran. Kasra Ravanbakhsh is the co-founder and managing director of Kasra Hooshmand Engineering (KDI). I was of course taken with him since he attributed his attendance at the EMVA Business Conference in Istanbul with seeing an advertisement for it in Vision Systems Design.

It turns out that along with my own blog about the conference and travel home under The Volcanic Cloud, Kasra has made a blog with many pictures about the EMVA conference.

KDI was formed in 2003 as private joint stock company in Tehran. The company's previous name was Kasra Digital Instruments and it still uses that abbreviation and logo.

Kasra says his company excels in developing machine vision systems, PC-based automation and monitoring, industrial automation, data acquisition, LabVIEW programming, microcontroller-based systems, and instrumentation. It is also very involved in cleanroom design and installation.
He also claims that KDI is the only professional developer of machine vision and real-time image processing-based inspection and control systems in Iran. KDI operates in industries such as pharmaceutical, glassware, packaging, military, aerospace, paper, food and beverage, and steel and aluminum production.

Kasra made many good contacts during the conference and perhaps opened the eyes of his new friends to some of the technical and intellectual life that stands just beyond their usual reach—not to mention some potential sales opportunities.

Europeans often note that their North American colleagues come from a “young” culture on the far side of the Atlantic. A bit of Persian history as described on the KDI website helps to put real antiquity into perspective!

Conard Holton

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An interactive atlas about global automation

If you manufacture automation equipment, including machine vision systems and robots, and you’re wondering where in the world to look for commercial growth opportunities, then you should review the Automation Atlas.

The Atlas shows the relative degree of automation in a country by showing the estimated number of robots per employees in processing industries. For more information and to use the Atlas, click here.

The Atlas was commissioned by the AUTOMATICA trade fair (held at Messe Munich, 7-11 June) and created by the statistical department of IFR - International Federation of Robotics, which is sponsoring the co-located ROBOTIK conference. The very interesting conference program is now available on the IFR website.

The IFR says only one-third of companies use automation technologies such as industrial robots or process-integrated quality control. For example, according to the Automation Atlas, countries in Eastern Europe employ relatively little automation technology--fewer than 50 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in the processing industry. The robot figure is only between 100 and 200 in Slovenia.

And globally there are clearly opportunities for growth in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and medical equipment industries, where the number of industrial robots in use is estimated to be fewer than 50 per 10,000 employees. In contrast, there are an estimated 400 to 700 robots for the same number of employees in the automobile industry.

Conard Holton,
Vision Systems Design