LEONI Customizes Machine Vision Solutions to Address Unique Visualization Challenges
While every machine vision system consists of a common set of components — sensors, optics, lighting, and a computational engine to run the image-processing software — machine vision is far from a one-size-fits-all solution. Requirements for imaging capabilities and computational power vary widely from one application to the next, as do space, lighting, and other logistical concerns. To implement a viable solution with significant ROI, manufacturers need an integrator who can customize a vision system to suit their unique needs.
To that end, LEONI Engineering Products and Services, Inc. (LEPS), designs vision systems with a technologically agnostic mindset. “By guiding our customers through this complex, nuanced process without preset requirements based on preferred technology vendors or solution types, we help our machine vision customers to arrive at best-in-class solutions,” explains Nick Tebeau, LEPS Director of Sales. The following are the four primary machine vision platforms LEONI uses to help manufacturers address their production challenges.
Saving Resources with Smart Cameras
Most customers with at least a cursory knowledge of machine vision start their application discussion in the smart-cameras technology segment. These systems are typically compact, easy to use, and cost effective. Smart cameras combine sensors, computer hardware, and software into a single device. Some models even include a full complement of optics and lights, packing all major machine vision components into an all-in-one system that’s fast and relatively inexpensive to deploy.
Costs aside, one of the biggest benefits of smart cameras is their compact design. Because they don’t require additional hardware, their implementation frees up manufacturing-line space that technicians or computers would otherwise occupy. Smart cameras are often ideal for single- and dual-camera applications, particularly where space is limited. In addition, smart cameras don’t need some of the more complex image processing algorithms to achieve production goals.
Enabling High-Powered, Multicamera Visualization With PC-Based Systems
Often referred to as centralized machine vision, PC-based systems employ a computer, which may be a rack-mounted server, tower, or workstation. The system also consists of standard cameras, which are installed on a production line that has its own lighting and optics, and each interfaces directly with the central PC.
With all data arriving at a central location, to be processed by the latest-generation microprocessors and graphics processing units, a single instance of the system’s image-processing software can perform analysis on images from multiple or single cameras running at high speeds, processing up to hundreds of images per second and issuing commands to downstream material handling and other production systems. While smart cameras may be connected similarly through a programmable logic controller, when it comes to multiple cameras and heavy computational loads, a PC-based system is generally more powerful, more cost-effective, and easier to manage.
Using IDE Library-Based Systems to Provide Tailored Vision Solutions
Both PC and smart camera systems include stock integrated development environments (IDEs), which provide buyers with the software tools necessary to construct the vision solutions they need. A library-based system, on the other hand, includes a custom IDE that an integrator has built from the ground up using proprietary or third-party software libraries.
Why would a LEPS customer opt for such a system? “It offers us complete freedom to design the best-in-class, highest-performing vision solution for the customer,” says Tebeau. “In a normal smart-camera- or PC-based system, you might have 200 tools to choose from, but in a library space, we only include the tools necessary to solve the customer’s particular problem.” Ultimately, such a tailor-made system makes it significantly easier for manufacturers to optimize their inspections, add products to their lines, and teach new procedures to line personnel — while maximizing speed, accuracy, and throughput.
Library-based systems are particularly useful to manufacturers who repeat processes on multiple lines. With the upfront engineering costs amortized across multiple lines or facilities, the result is a more affordable, higher-performing solution than would be possible with multiple PC-based installations based on nonoptimized IDE environments.
Achieving Seamless Integration with Robot-Based Machine Vision
Smart-camera-, PC-, and library-based systems all can issue instructions to robots. However, many customers who buy robotic guidance applications request that the machine vision system designer leverage the robot vendor’s machine vision hardware and software. The main advantage of these stock solutions is their ease of use and their compatibility with the robot control system. Because the same IDE is used to calibrate the vision system and program the robot, changing one or both is a seamless process, and implementation and maintenance are generally faster, easier, and cheaper than with third-party systems.
For manufacturers, the most important consideration is that a stock solution may not represent all of the ways their vision problem may be solved using a robot. Product lines vary widely, and users must compare their needs and their vendors’ capabilities as they choose between stock and third-party solutions. Helping customers to find the most cost-effective solution for the life of the production line is one of LEONI’s specialties when it comes to vision-guided robotic applications.
Let LEONI Help You Choose the Right Tools for the Job
Each of these options has its advantages and typical applications, but manufacturers have unique needs. To help customers understand the needs of their application and select, customize, and implement the right tools for the job, LEPS starts by listening to the customer without a predisposition toward any particular machine vision approach.
“There are very few companies capable of providing solutions across the board, who are agnostic to the technologies themselves and are able to guide customers through the implementation process,” says Tebeau. “The value of LEONI is that we understand how to make manufacturing successful through automation.”