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An innovation driver in LED lighting and control - Interview with Peter Bhagat, Gardasoft

27 Jan 2016

Founded in 1999 in Cambridge, England, Gardasoft Vision Ltd are world leaders in LED lighting controllers and very high brightness lighting. This UK company is one of STEMMER IMAGING´s main suppliers. In this interview, Gardasoft CEO Peter Bhagat talks about trends and future developments from his point of view.

What are the current main technological, economical or market related trends in machine vision?

Peter Bhagat: In addressing this question I take a bias towards machine vision lighting, but I believe that many of the themes are common - such as adaptability, increased adherence to standardisation, and ease of use for the customer.

Talking about technology, I see that machine vision components will become more intelligent and adaptable. For example, the end of life for lighting is specified when it reaches 70 percent of its original brightness, how many systems can cope with a 30 percent reduction in brightness? A maintenance engineer will normally need to regularly adjust lighting brightness or software thresholds to compensate. In future, lighting will hold its lifetime usage information, which the controller will use to maintain consistent brightness over many years.

Faster line scan cameras are providing new opportunities; engineers are using the faster line rates to reduce costs or increase capability. For example, a single line scan camera can now acquire images with two different lighting schemes without slowing down throughput. The lights are switched for each line, so alternately brightfield and backlit, for example, or different wavelengths are used.

It’s outside my field, but liquid lenses look like they will enable more adaptable systems and create a range of new techniques and inspections.

Looking at the commercial and market side I see the following trends: As the machine vision market grows year on year, engineers with the knowledge of machine vision solutions appear to be in short supply. The effect of this is that systems need to be easier and faster to put together. This makes machine vision engineers more efficient, but also allows engineers with skills in other areas to use it. For example, engineers in general factory automation might not have specific machine vision knowledge but they want automated inspection in their systems, and enabling these non-experts access to this technology will increase its use.

So increasing the capabilities of smart cameras, making components more plug-and-play, providing easy integration and making advanced techniques easier to use will be a necessary trend in the coming years. It’s no coincidence that these are the issues that Gardasoft’s recently launched Triniti technology addresses.

The increased demand for ‘solutions’ from stakeholders within the machine vision environment, places an emphasis on machine vision vendors to create easy to use, integrated products. We believe that lighting is now being brought into this scenario, where it has been noticeably absent during rapid networking and communications advances elsewhere amongst machine vision components.

Of course this places a primary emphasis on the development of appropriate technology, but also on the way stakeholders communicate, educate, exchange application problems and ideas - that is an environment which fosters innovation aligned to users’ needs.

What are the main developments Gardasoft is currently working on?

Peter Bhagat: The following is a summary of our main developments, some are in the category of enhancing our current technology, and other such as Triniti where we believe that along with our product partners we are pioneering Intelligent Lighting for the machine vision sector:

  • Technology and market leadership in high performance, high precision, high power LED lighting control
  • Increasing integration of lighting control within machine vision systems. LED controllers therefore effectively become a module within established image processing environment. Examples being that Gardasoft have pioneered lighting controllers being the first non-streaming GigE Vision devices
  • Continued development of an intelligent LED lighting platform through network-enabled lighting and controllers, and software integration to established machine vision standards
  • High speed control of machine vision system synchronisation and control, with software development ensuring full integrated with vision systems and ease of implementation for the user
  • Close involvement with relevant standardisation
  • OEM specific devices in the areas of high performance lighting and control; already had a significant OEM interest in our Triniti technology for OEM lighting systems

Examples of Gardasoft developments within this theme are Triniti for machine vision (hardware and software), Triniti for traffic solutions, taking machine into new markets, high power controllers reflecting the increase of higher power LED machine vision lighting, and new machine vision timing controllers like the Gardasoft CC320+ with enhanced functions and easy to use software; and integration into the Triniti platform.

What are the main strengths of your company from your point of view?

Peter Bhagat: I see Gardasoft as an innovation driver through technology leadership in LED lighting and control. We build on a lot of machine vision application experience, achieved by combining a long established core competence in LED technology, along with practical experience of how such systems are implemented and used in the field.

Throughout my comments to these questions I have mentioned the importance of being close to the market and customers. But of course you need to be able to respond to resulting demand, and this highlights another key strength of Gardasoft: our speed to market in developing new products and technology, or even bespoke OEM products as a response to this demand. I believe that to be a technology leader in any market you must have this agility along with a continuous development cycle.

From a core competence perspective, we have a central design specialism in LED system hardware and software elements including control, measurement, triggering, sequencing, programming and communications. Our patented technologies reflect this expertise:

  • SafeSense™: Automatic sensing for LED control
  • SafePower™: Automatic LED power control
  • Triniti™: Intelligent lighting platform

Importantly, we are conscious that wherever possible we should conform to machine vision standardisation within our technology developments. In fact, alongside our latest Triniti technology we are also working closely with the lighting standards committees to ensure that LED controllers can be an integral part of standard machine vision systems in the very near future through alignment with GigE Vision and GenICam.

Looking back at the last 12 months, what have been the major highlights for Gardasoft?

Peter Bhagat: The development and launch of our Triniti technology has been an obvious highlight for Gardasoft, because the market reaction has been so positive. We’ve also built valuable product partner relationships throughout this development which have resulted in what we believe are market leading intelligent LED lighting systems. Equally, it’s encouraging that we have seen consistent growth across our standard LED controller business and the escalation of our OEM specific product developments.

I’ve mentioned collaboration with product partners, and equally important is our relationship with our route to market partners – these combined relationships are important in any sector, but especially in machine vision where we are all part of an overall system and what we develop affects (and is affected by) other system components and standards. Success here is measured not only in commercial terms, but also in terms of the value-add that is provided by customer support and education activities - this is crucial as technology becomes increasingly more capable, and users are needing to be truly multi-skilled.

What is your main personal goal for the next months or years?

Peter Bhagat: Whilst I’ve always had a passion for exciting technology, I’ve also always believed that it’s important for technology to be driven by the market, with the customer as the focus. My personal goals therefore relate to my company to drive innovation in all that we do, with the customer in mind. Our resulting products are only complete and effective if they improve the users’ experience, improve a critical process, or add tangible value to the performance of a machine - these are the types of goals we always must set ourselves. To achieve these aims, I would always look to maintain the following ethos:

  • Closeness and responsiveness to customers
  • Strong partnerships and collaboration
  • Investment in our resources and knowledge
  • Quality of products and services

and crucially, this must be underpinned by another personal key aim - the best and most effective internal working environment that I can help to provide within my own company.

In summary, we operate in a machine vision sector which, by its very nature, has stakeholders continuously striving for incremental improvements, sometimes step improvements, and as a technology supplier within this sector we must have the same attitude and ethos.

Gardasoft Triniti
  • Expert control of machine vision lighting made easy
  • Technology for full integration of lighting into machine vision software
  • Communication via PC or smart camera
  • Direct connection via GigE Vision and GenICam interfaces
Gardasoft CC320

Trigger timing controller that can combine lighting, cameras, proximity sensors and encoders to generate an automated solution.