Key Aspects of Machine Vision System Integration

When it comes to simple or complex machine vision applications, a vision system is more than a collection of parts. To work effectively, its many components require careful selection. Without an experienced system integrator, the vision system can fall short of the end-user expectation and requirements. To ensure success of the system and validate their investment, end-users must consider three critical aspects that build the foundation of a successful machine vision system.

Specification and Feasibility

Many times, the first two of these aspects go hand-in-hand: It is important to begin with an in-depth project specification followed by a feasibility study. “The project specification defines the system parameters and ensures we are developing a system that meets the customer’s expectations,” says James Reed, Vision Product Manager at LEONI Engineering and Project Services, Inc. (LEPS).

System parameters could include:

  • The size of the defect
  • The different part types that need to be inspected
  • Whether the part is fixed or moving
  • If it is moving, how much and in which direction
  • Cycle time
  • Response time

The specification step often proves the most difficult for a system integrator. “Many times, these specifications aren’t defined by the end-user in a way that is compatible with machine vision, but they are critical to the success of the system,” Reed says. “Machine vision is a science, not an art. A lot of calculation has to go into simulating and selecting the right components to ensure the system will meet customer expectations.”

To help customers define project specifications, LEPS works with the customer to review their process and sample parts to define the specification of a project.

A thorough project specification leads to a comprehensive feasibility study. “A feasibility study requires us to simulate the application and plant environment as closely as possible to verify that the system will work to the required specifications,” Reed says. “We need to be sure we have the proper camera and lens, the correct working distance from the parts, the correct lighting and angles, and so on.”

The feasibility study serves an important role internally for LEPS as well. “We need to set up a variety of scenarios in our lab to make sure we are considering all the aspects of the application,” Reed says.

Ultimately, a thorough feasibility study “does the groundwork to set up the application and gives our customer the validation for a solution they know will work and can justify the investment to their upper management,” Reed says.

Result Data and Communications Requirements

Equally important to the project specification and feasibility study is the result data, which shows the customer how their machine vision system will work. Many vision systems can indicate a pass or a fail from an image. But more sophisticated systems can collect more complex image data or apply algorithms to detect, interpret, and resolve more variable parameters, such as missing parts, part sequence or orientation, or various degrees of quality.

A more advanced system also allows for more advanced data analysis. “When you start exporting the raw data, you can use statistical analysis software and gain insights about what might cause potential issues,” Reed says. “It might notify you to replace tooling every so often in the cycle or adjust the machine producing the part. The software can provide powerful information not only related to your machine vision system, but your entire manufacturing process as a whole.”

Because machine vision systems are often part of a larger process, it’s important for them to easily communicate with other systems. This can be done with either a discrete I/O or Ethernet/IP that connect to a PLC. From triggering the camera to communicating information to the automation system, LEPS ensures that the entire vision system meets the requirements to communicate seamlessly with the factory environment.

The LEPS Advantage

When considering a machine vision system, end-users should look to an integrator that is knowledgeable, experienced, and flexible. Using a vision system integrator that is product agnostic also offers key advantages to the customer.

“Being product agnostic means that we look for the capability of products for each application,” Reed says. “When we review a new application, we recommend the best hardware and software for the job.”

Additionally, LEPS provides its customers some of the most highly skilled engineers in the industry. “We have more advanced-level Certified Vision Professionals (CVPs) than any other machine vision integrator,” Reed says. “By having so many CVPs on staff at the advanced level, we demonstrate our dedication to a comprehensive and customized approach to the machine vision system integration.”

To learn more about the key aspects of machine vision system integration, join Reed at the Automate 2019 Conference on April 10 from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm during the Automate Show in Chicago, IL.