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Machine Vision: Key Technology for Automation and Industry 4.0

21 Mar 2016

The Automatica, international trade fair for automation and mechatronics, will take place in Munich from the 21st to the 24th of June 2016 for the 7th time. In this interview, Christof Zollitsch, Managing Director STEMMER IMAGING, discusses the meaning of Industry 4.0 for machine vision and other current trends that will be seen at that show.

How important is machine vision for Industry 4.0, and what influence does this concept have on current developments in your industry?

Christof Zollitsch: Machine vision is an important prerequisite for the flexible production in the sense of Industry 4.0. Due to the high demands on sensory systems, the digital factory represents a great opportunity for the industry to establish itself further in production as a key technology.

How can machine vision contribute to the implementation of Industry 4.0 concepts?

Christof Zollitsch: To meet the requirements of Industry 4.0, optimized and direct networking of machine vision with the production systems and an appropriate database connection are required. Flexible production control is only possible in this way. This close integration of machine vision is also a condition that ensures traceability of production data, which is essential for safety-related products, for example, brakes or steering components on vehicles for liability reasons.

What are the solutions currently on the market?

Christof Zollitsch: Many machine vision systems are already more than just mere inspection systems today. They enable early identification of trends in production processes with appropriate interpretation and processing of results and therefore are consistent with the philosophy of Industry 4.0. For example, the increasing wear of a tool can be seen from increasing numbers of errors or the progressive deterioration of the quality characteristics of finished products.

What does that mean specifically for your current and medium-term market strategy as a technology provider for machine vision?

Christof Zollitsch: We want to face the challenges of Industry 4.0 and take advantage of related opportunities. We are following the technical developments in this area closely and contributing our experience whenever possible to be always on the cutting edge of technology for our customers.

To what extent does the topic Industry 4.0 influence your product portfolio? Are there or have there been changes or adjustments?

Christof Zollitsch: Currently, the changes to machine vision components triggered by Industry 4.0 are limited. However, there are already initiatives aimed at closer cooperation between the control and machine vision worlds, among other things. The goal is improved and easier integration of machine vision into the production environment, which is an essential prerequisite for Industry 4.0.

What should potential users of machine vision systems consider in procurement to make their investment as secure as possible for the future? Modern production lines must be designed as flexibly as possible, so that they can be adapted quickly and easily to new products. This has a direct impact on the selection of built-in machine vision systems. The eye of the system must still be able to detect errors reliably even with changed products or faster production cycles. As a result, the configuration of a machine vision system becomes a balancing act between what is technically feasible and what is economically sensible. Experience in the selection of components is required, which STEMMER IMAGING is happy to provide to its customers.

How important are the application areas of robotics and handling technology for machine vision?

Christof Zollitsch: In the latest VDMA market study for machine vision in Europe, the automotive industry is cited as the largest user sector of machine vision as it has been for many years. This industry is also a pioneer in the use of robotics and handling technology. Both technologies are capable of higher degrees of automation in combination with efficient sensor technology such as machine vision, so that importance of these areas for machine vision is already clear for this. However, robotics and handling technology are also being used increasingly in many other segments of the manufacturing industry, and the same applies there too: Many tasks can be solved better or only at all with machine vision. Robotics and handling technology are among the main fields of application for machine vision for these reasons.

How do you assess the importance of AUTOMATICA for your industry and the manufacturing industry in general?

Christof Zollitsch: Since it was first held, AUTOMATICA has shown the current state of production technology with its focal points robotics, handling technology and machine vision technology. Whoever wants to be and remain competitive in the production of goods has to constantly optimize his manufacturing processes. Without the use of machine vision, automated production is no longer conceivable in many industries and applications today. AUTOMATICA is the perfect platform for us to demonstrate the capabilities of machine vision to users.

What will STEMMER IMAGING show at the next AUTOMATICA 2016? Among others there will be a new version of our machine vision library Common Vision Blox, which provides users with additional, significant advantages both in terms of the time saved during the development phase as well as the use of software that already supports Windows 10. As a particularly exciting new development, we are also going to present a hyperspectral machine vision system that uses more than 100 wavelength ranges to record image information of objects and thus to distinguish and classify their material properties. You might say that the system takes a chemical fingerprint of the inspection objects and consequently creates new possibilities for machine vision in a variety of industries such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, the packaging and food industries as well as in different sorting applications. In addition, we are of course going to show more new products from all fields of machine vision.

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