The increase in computing power, for one, has helped machine vision solutions to gain in popularity in various automated inspection and measurement applications. In certain problems, the power of optical systems has already been well recognised, but something about machine vision is that the possible uses are only limited by our imagination. Adventurousness, however, can be – quite naturally – contained by the expenses as modern optical systems may snowball into considerable costs with all the specialised equipment, software, configuration and support, which ultimately slows down the progress of innovative solutions.
Beyond the initial build lie other aspects, such as modifiability. Some systems offer flexibility and allow to be changed or adapted according to variables in the process but almost invariably require the supplier to execute. Common such cases are when, for example, products or raw materials go through changes, or when disturbances in the process are eventually identified. Say we were talking about a manufacturing process. The manufacturer itself is often the most qualified expert of its own process, and it would be ideal if the manufacturer could, first hand, optimise the machine vision solutions to answer the needs. Thus, the very desired performance would be obtained while also saving in expenses and possible downtime.
The above approach expectedly has its challenges. The users are to handle both the equipment (e.g. the camera) and the software. They could also use knowledge of the basic principles of optical solutions, like illumination. The fact is, however, that the problems never have simply one right solution, and a good setting or a combination of parameters is often found through trial and error. When the manufacturer himself has the ability to configure the system, the expertise of the very process can be applied in the most direct manner giving an advantage in both creating and altering the system.
Technological development is taking us closer and closer to such optical solutions in which external support and costs can be brought down to minimum. This is due to, for example, advanced standardised hardware and communication interfaces, and the increasingly versatile and powerful software. The software, first of all, function to design the solution, but in the end it is possible to have one control almost anything from cameras to external devices. Thus, an essence lies in the software used in designing and controlling the machine vision system.
A good software for such approach is versatile, but at the same time easy to use. It holds a broad selection of image processing functions, the algorithms are efficient and the elements can be conveniently combined and sequenced with different structures. A versatile software can also effectively communicate with other devices and manage data storage. The software is built around one simple and consistent user interface and the I/O configurations are easily manageable.
This article projects an aspect of the evolution of machine vision solutions where technological development brings users themselves closer to total control and understanding over the optical systems. A variety of useful applications is already realisable with little effort and expenses, and not only is that selection about to grow, but the accessible vision design software allow users to apply their own expertise. As a result optical solutions will be able to show their immense instrumentality.