Machine Vision Will Take It Up a Notch at Automate 2015
| By: Winn Hardin, Contributing Editor
From dynamic-focus liquid lenses for microscopy applications to multi-million lux LED line lights and 25m USB3 Vision active cables, machine vision companies will introduce a slew of groundbreaking new products at Automate 2015, North America’s leading automation conference and exhibit.
It’s been two years since Automate and ProMat shared the McCormick Center in Chicago to create one of the largest, most active and exciting automation-focused conferences and exhibits in the world. Next month, March 23-26, the wait will be over and tens of thousands of industry’s leadership will converge on the Windy City to find out how the latest machine vision technology will help them improve their quality, productivity, and profitability.
Optics Step Into Liquid Liquid lenses, used primarily for cell phones and board cameras until now, will make a bigger splash at Automate this year as Edmund Optics (Barrington, New Jersey) introduces their Dynamic Focus VZM lens, which uses an internal liquid lens to seamlessly adjust focus from 0.65x to 4.6x while maintaining zoom. “This combines a zoom lens with objective liquid lens, allowing the user to continuously go through different magnifications as well as different layers of the object on the stage,” says Greg Hollows, director of Machine Vision Solutions at Edmund Optics.
Edmund Optics continues a variable magnification theme with new TECHSPEC variable magnificent telecentric lenses, as well as new telecentric models for 1” sensors. Edmund Optics also will release new high-resolution fixed focal length lenses for 1” and 4/3” sensors and high resolution short focal lengths of 3.5 and 4.5-mm of 1/1.8” sensors.
Point Grey (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada) will illustrate its latest Blackfly BFLY-PGE-23S6 camera models, which include the new Sony IMX249, a 1/1.2" global shutter CMOS sensor that combines Sony’s Exmor® high-speed CMOS performance with an analog memory pixel design that enables global shutter and low read noise.
Momentum continues to build behind the new USB3 Vision communication standard. Automate 2015 attendees can expect to see an expanding ecosystem of USB3 Vision products, including Point Grey’s 2.8MP and 1.3MP Chameleon3 cameras; Datalogic’s (Telford, Pennsylvania) new MXU Vision Processor, the first product to come out of the Datalogic and B&R Automation (Eggelsberg, Austria) cooperative development partnership; and Components Express Inc.’s (Woodridge, Illinois) BIT MAXX USB3 Vision.
“Automate will be the culmination of the latest, most innovative machine vision, laser marking, and sensors and safety products in Datalogic’s portfolio, highlighting synergies between the different technologies,” says Mark Kremer, vice president of Machine Vision and Laser Marketing at Datalogic. For example, for the first time in North America, Datalogic will demonstrate a mark-and-read demo integrating a vision smart camera with a laser-marking source. In addition, Datalogic will integrate technologies like the new UX series of Vision Processors, with up to four USB3 Vision connections and B&R’s PC 910 industrial PC, on a working conveyor demonstrating applications such as track-and- trace and quality inspection processes.
“At the other end of the spectrum, we’ll also be introducing the new P-Series smart camera, which can be modified for different applications in the field, improving system reuse and changeover, while also running Datalogic’s brand new IMPACT Lite software, which makes it possible for virtually any technician to set up and run less complicated vision applications,” Kremer says. He adds that Datalogic will demo a new pattern-sorting solution that promises to find complex patterns in labels and related applications faster than any other algorithm on the market even in mixed manufacturing and packaging lines with large potential product sets.
Coax Solves USB3 Vision Cable Concerns
While users have more and more cameras and a nearly infinite variety of USB3-compatible processing platforms, including every new laptop on the market today, USB3 cable limitations of between 5 and 7 meters have caused many to question how much USB3 Vision will benefit the machine vision market. According to Components Express’s Ray Berst, his company’s new BIT MAXX USB3 Vision active cables with maximum lengths of up to 25m will unleash the standard’s true potential.
“We evaluated twisted pair and a host of other conductors, and we managed to extend the reliability of USB3 Vision cables out to 7m using the best available USB3 controller. But we knew we needed to go farther,” says Berst. “Plus, if you stepped on or attenuated the twisted-pair cable, your data reliability went way down. Six months into development, we decided to go with an inexpensive, small-diameter coax cable that offered much better shielding and robustness for industrial applications with industrial connectors and a circuit that transmits data with transmit pre-emphasis and receive equalization. What we ended up with is a cable that can go farther than the commercially available twisted-pair variety for less money and with much greater reliability for USB3 Vision industrial applications.”
Lights and the Integrators That Pull it All Together
Machine vision was once referred to as a black art, or more specifically, lighting a machine vision system was considered an art form. LED light manufacturers for machine vision such as Smart Vision Lights (Muskegon, Michigan) and Gardasoft (Cambridge, UK) are helping to make lighting easier by using electronic intelligence to make vision lights more flexible.
Gardasoft’s new Triniti controller makes any compatible light plug-and-play compatible with most machine vision software programs, offering greater light control and sensing capabilities for detecting when light is nearing the end of its useable life.Smart Vision Lights will be showcasing two new lights that offer both on-axis and off-axis light and the ability to choose the right mix (the TL305 and DADL75). Smart Vision Light’s head engineer, Matt Pinter, says he’s finalizing the design of a new line light that promises to far exceed the highest-available LED line light output of 3 million lux while adding a silicone optic with ‘special properties.’ “You’ll have to drop by our booth to see more,” says Pinter.
Finally, all but the most simple machine vision applications (simple being a relative term) require the special skills of experienced system designers and integrators to succeed. i4 Solutions (Mendota Heights, Minnesota) and Nicholas Tebeau, manager of LEONI Vision Solutions, part of LEONI Engineering Products & Services (Lake Orion, Michigan), are both looking forward to talking about the importance of using an AIA Certified Systems Integrator (CSI). Based on i4 Solutions’ experience in flexible packaging and a 50% growth in the use of foils and other flexible packages since 2008, president Brian Durand says he’s looking forward to discussing with Automation 2015 attendees the most challenging applications in food and beverage and pharmaceuticals.
“Automate is always a great show for us, and we look forward to explaining to automation customers that machine vision really isn’t an art at LEONI, it’s based on math, simulation, risk analysis, and hard work,” Tebeau says. “At LEONI, we take an ISO 9001 systematic approach to machine vision systems design, and we look forward to talking about our approach to system design from early engineering through training at our state-certified training facility.”
There’s a saying that if you haven’t been, you don’t know, and it couldn't be more true than the combined Automate/ProMat show scheduled for Chicago’s McCormick Center, March 23-26. If automation and productivity gains will help you stay ahead of the competition, then you need to plan for a quick trip to the Windy City.