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AIA Fills Gap in Machine Vision Training, Technical Certification

POSTED 08/07/2014  | By: Winn Hardin, Contributing Editor

The Certified Vision Professional (CVP) training and Certified Systems Integrator (CSI) programs are filling gaps in machine vision engineering and technician training while helping customers know whom to trust with their machine vision system projects.

There are classes to become a computerized tomography (CT) scanning technician. Other courses teach the correct way to operate x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems. But search the net for a degree in machine vision engineering and you’ll find it wedged between an ad for a low-cost online IT school and a traditional electrical engineering degree.

In other words, it doesn’t exist.

Luckily AIA’s CVP program is providing this specialized training. For machine vision integrators and customers alike, the CVP and CSI programs are helping to ensure that all certified integrators have a consistent knowledge base while providing objective benchmarks that customers can trust when searching for an integrator to guide their next project.

“Before the initiation of the AIA program, most machine vision technical knowledge came from one of two sources: classical technical education with hands-on experience, and individual training by corporations that develop imaging products,” notes Greg Hollows, AIA board member and director of machine vision solutions at Edmund Optics (Barrington, New Jersey). “The issue was that there was a lack of coordinated information between vision disciplines, and hands-on training is limited to an individual’s experiences that do not build upon the collective experience of the vision community. There were also a few universities that did concentrations in imaging, but they were neither as developed [as the AIA CVP program], nor considered at the same level as classical electrical engineering and physics educations.”

The lack of standardized training became glaringly apparent when AIA set a goal of creating a certification program for integrators that would elevate the status of a successful CSI candidate both within the machine vision community and across industry at large, according to Dana Whalls, vice president of the AIA, the global vision and imaging trade association.

Get What You Pay For
“System integration companies are the key implementers of machine vision systems,” Whalls explains. “These companies develop, install, and support vision and imaging automation across a broad spectrum of industries. The AIA CVP and CSI programs initially responded to a need of its system integrator member companies, who wanted to better promote their vision capabilities and help increase the successful deployment of machine vision technologies.”

In focus groups with leading integrators, AIA staff learned that too often users choose a system integrator based on price alone. If the low-bid integrator is unable to successfully perform the work, the user ends up with a bad experience and may not choose to invest further in vision technologies.

“When we met with leading machine vision end users, they agreed that some aid in their system integrator qualification process would be helpful,” Whalls continues. “They were especially interested in learning what criteria they should take into account when looking for a system integration company. This information could also be useful in convincing their purchasing departments that the lowest bid isn’t always the best one.”

Working with both end users and system integrators, AIA’s Certified System Integrator (CSI) company certification program was developed to help identify capable integrators using criteria such as the experience of the integrator, their track record of success, and the training of their key employees. Standardizing this last point — machine vision training — led AIA to develop the Certified Vision Professional (CVP) individual training and certification program.

Certified Vision Professional“AIA has long been providing machine vision and imaging training, so the CVP program was a natural extension of that,” Whalls says. “We needed to measure the knowledge of the system integration company personnel, so again, we worked with industry leaders to formalize training courses and certification testing required for two levels of expertise, CVP-Basic and CVP-Advanced. The CVP program was launched at The Vision Show in 2010. We began with the Basic training and added the Advanced level in 2011.”

The individual CVP-Basic training program consists of the fundamentals of machine vision and imaging, including camera and image sensor design, optics, lighting, image processing, and system integration. CVP-Advanced goes much deeper into those core vision topics and adds training in color vison, metrology and 2D vision, 3D vision, non-visible imaging, particle analysis and classification, and vision-guided robotics.

There are currently 208 Basic CVPs and 98 Advanced CVPs. The updated list of individuals who have achieved certification can be found at www.visiononline.org/CVP.

Based on feedback from CVP and CSI program participants, the standardized training and certification programs are having a positive effect on the marketplace. “When we meet with customers who aren’t experienced with machine vision, our CSI status puts them at ease and overcomes the concerns they have about working with a new system designer,” says Nicholas Tebeau, manager Vision Solutions at LEONI Engineering Products and Services, Inc. (Lake Orion, Michigan).

aia - certified system integratorMachine Vision Goes Mainstream
Officially launched in 2012, CSI certification requires that a percentage of an integrator’s technically competent vision professionals achieve Advanced-level CVP status. Applicants also provide recent project details and references, which AIA verifies and documents. Any claims of specialized industry experience must also be backed up with verified successful experience. Companies must re-certify every three years.

Today, there are eight AIA Certified System Integrator companies: ATS Automation; Graftek Imaging Inc.; i4 Solutions, LLC;Integro Technologies Corporation; LEONI Vision Solutions; Ponfac S/A; Radix, Inc.; and Vista Solutions, Inc.

“Major end users are beginning to require certification of their suppliers, so we expect this group of CSIs to grow steadily,” Whalls says. “End users still need to conduct their own due diligence on the suppliers they select; the association cannot guarantee the work of any integrator or recommend which integrator to choose,” she reminds us. The updated list of CSI companies can be found at www.visiononline.org/CSI.

Vision Training, Certification Heads to Stuttgart, Japan, and Chicago

The CVP program is striving to help raise the “quality bar” for individuals working in vision and imaging. It is not exclusive to the company certification program and is offered at various locations throughout the world, including Germany in conjunction with the VISION show in Stuttgart, November 5-6, 2014, and Japan (in Japanese) at the ITE Show December 3-5, 2014. Both Basic- and Advanced-level CVP will be taught at Automate 2015, March 23-26, 2015, in Chicago’s McCormick Place.

While AIA remains the primary virtual campus for studying machine vision technology and design techniques, this unique status may be changing as machine vision goes mainstream, finding its way into consumer and entertainment as well as traditional manufacturing industries.

“We are seeing machine vision-related offerings grow at the university level, which is a good thing,” says Edmund Optics’ Hollows. “The expansion of imaging processing in our day-to-day lives through the entertainment, augmented reality/VR, and gaming industries — to name a few — is driving the need for more educational options. Industrial imaging and machine vision is benefiting from this increased activity. This expanding foundation of machine vision training will only improve and enhance the CVP program as more individuals will come into our industry with a better foundation to understand the fundamentals of applications.”