Automation without machine vision: unthinkable!
Without modern automation technology the economic production of all manner of goods would simply be impossible. For years, imaging and machine vision has been playing a more and more important role: this technology turns "blind" machines and equipment into "seeing" ones and enables applications to be realised which would be impossible to convert to other sensor technologies, or only at great expenditure.
Modern production systems utilise the performance capabilities of automation components such as robots, memory-programmable controls (SPS), sensory technology, handling technology, drive technology and many other elements for safe, high-quality, fault-free and economical production. Image processing, often also referred to as machine vision, has become established in many industry sectors as a high-performance and economical method for automated visual quality control. Even at high speeds and with stringent requirements for accuracy it allows one hundred per cent inspection of the manufactured products and is thus an ideal tool to strengthen the competitiveness of companies.
An important aspect in terms of economics is that products can be inspected optically prior to being finished. These inspections at an early stage in the production process allow timely detection of faults and rejection of faulty parts before they pass through the entire manufacturing process. This avoids unnecessary costs and increases economic efficiency.
The performance levels of imaging components such as cameras, imaging capturing hardware, image processing software and the most commonly used PC systems are increasing continuously. This is why machine vision is permanently attracting new applications in more and more industry sectors and contributing to efficient manufacturing in a major way. Image processing is an integral element of today's automation systems and equipment, one that cannot be done without any more.
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Machine vision already makes an important contribution to the manufacturing sector, primarily by providing automated inspection capabilities as part of QC procedures. However, the world of automation is becoming increasingly complex. Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and many other technologies present users and developers of vision systems with big challenges in the selection of the ideal system for their respective application.
Automation technology and machine vision are increasingly merging. Our press agent Peter Stiefenhöfer discussed this exciting development with Peter Keppler, Director of Corporate Sales at STEMMER IMAGING.
Ricoh has added the new FL-CC-MX series to its existing range of lenses for 2/3” 5 megapixel cameras. These high-performance lenses with 12 and 16mm focal length versions provide high resolution, high contrast imaging with low distortion across the entire sensor, ensuring accurate measurements at the periphery of the image as well as at the centre.
The use of small to medium-sized collaborative robots for factory automation applications is growing at a rapid rate. Many of these applications are pick-and-place, so the robots require machine vision to visualize the scene, process information to make control decisions and execute precision-based mechanical movements.
The Swiss company, Leuthold Mechanik AG (HLM) makes machines for manufacturing aluminium containers which, among other things, are used for packaging pet food and foodstuffs. A core element of quality assurance is machine vision by STEMMER IMAGING.
Eight Teledyne DALSA Spyder3 line scan cameras form the core of an inspection system developed by the Bavaria-based Sturm-Gruppe. The system checks sheet metal parts for compliance with required quality standards by using their CAD data for direct comparison. When selecting the appropriate machine vision components the company strongly relied on STEMMER IMAGING’s profound expertise.
Sheet metal processing is one of Sturm’s core competences. “No matter whether steel, stainless steel, aluminium or special materials – almost everything from 0.5 mm to 20 mm is feasible. We manufacture from the small-scale washer up to welded components with sizes of 10 metres and weights of several tons”, explains Alexander Luft, Production Manager at Sturm.
Processing methods such as laser cutting, stamping, forming, welding, grinding and various other surface treatments as well as the manufacture and assembly of complete components are ordinary tasks for Sturm. “Our clients bring along their drawings and we deliver the finished products – from simple laser cutting to a complex assembly, from lot size 1 to serial production”, summarises Alexander Luft. State of the art equipment is available on almost 11,000 m2 of production space in Salching in Lower Bavaria.