Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sent to Coventry

This week, I dispatched our European editor Dave Wilson off to the Photonex trade show in Coventry in the UK to discover what novel machine-vision systems might be under development in Europe.

Starting off early to beat the traffic jams on the motorway, he arrived at the Ricoh show grounds at the ungodly hour of eight in the morning. But that gave him a good two hours to plan the day ahead before the doors of the show opened -- which is exactly what he did.

Whilst browsing through the technical seminar program organized by the UK Industrial Vision Association (UKIVA) over a breakfast of Mexican food, one presentation in particular caught his eye.

Entitled “3D imaging in action,” it promised to reveal how a Sony smart camera and a GigE camera could be used together to create a 3-D image-processing system that could analyze the characteristics of parts on a rotating table.

The demonstration by Paul Wilson, managing director of Scorpion Vision (Lymington, UK;, would illustrate the very techniques that had been used by a system integrator who had developed a robotic vision system that could first identify -- and then manipulate -- car wheels of different sizes and heights.

And indeed it did. During the short presentation, Wilson explained how the Scorpion Vision software developed by Tordivel (Oslo, Norway; had been used to create the application which was first capturing three-dimensional images of the parts and then making measurements on them. The entire application ran under an embedded version of Windows XP on the Sony smart camera.

Interestingly enough, software such as Tordivel’s allows applications such as this to be developed by a user with few, if any, programming skills. Instead, they are created through a graphical user interface from which a user chooses a number of different tools to perform whatever image-analysis tasks are required.

The ease by which such software allows system integrators to build systems runs in stark contrast to other more traditional forms of programming, or even more contemporary ones that make use of graphical development environments. Both of these require a greater level of software expertise and training than such non-programmed graphical user interfaces.

Even so, the more sophisticated and easier the software is to use, the more expensive it is likely to be, a fact that was not lost on Scorpion Vision’s managing director as he spoke to our man Dave at the show.

Nevertheless, he also argued that higher initial software costs can often be quickly offset by the greater number of systems that can be developed by a user in any given period of time -- an equally important consideration to be taken into account when considering which package to use to develop your own 3-D vision system.

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