Julie Busby, Managing Director at Multipix Imaging, outlines how advances in key industrial imaging technologies are enabling the automation of increasingly complex manufacturing processes.
Despite the obvious challenges over the past 12 months, the thirst for new technology is as great as ever, leveraging machine vision to provide ever increasingly intelligent automated systems for industrial purposes. This impacts all sectors, from logistics to electronics manufacturing, as the drive to automate is taking on a new level in the wake of COVID and realisation that labour-intensive processes are vulnerable to outside influences and potentially not the most efficient use of resources.
Some of the more recent advances in machine vision can answer the call to automate the most challenging manufacturing and handling processes. Three technology areas, in particular, are being used in synergy to create powerful solutions; deep learning, 3D and robotics.
Deep learning is based on neural networks, meaning, in the case of machine vision, that the system has some intelligence to determine a good product from a bad product, or intelligent sorting, without the complexity of ground-up algorithm development and design which has been required in the past. At Multipix Imaging, we see success for deep learning in quite specific tasks, such as sorting and picking good/bad products, where the products naturally have variation. In a traditional machine vision solution, the system would have been designed to detect good and bad using a ‘golden template’ approach. However, if the product naturally varies but is still acceptable, the ‘golden template’ does not work as it will reject anything that is not near to being perfect. The power of deep learning comes from the intelligence to recognise that good products can come with variation, just as the natural world expects.
Imagine combining this intelligence with a robot, and you have very flexible, powerful solutions for automated sorting and picking processes.
Another technology area that has continued to gain momentum is 3D imaging. The latest sensor/camera technology is creating more clearly defined 3D data – similar to the evolution of high-resolution 2D images. This high-resolution data means the accuracy of finding a 3D object in space significantly increases, which directly results in much improved instructions to a robot for picking and placing etc. Multipix Imaging has been working extensively with the Photoneo Phoxi 3D scanner, and customers are creating impressive solutions – not only on the traditional ‘static’ approach. Until now, no 3D vision system has been able to capture moving dynamic scenes without a trade-off between quality and speed. But that’s about to change with the new Photoneo MotionCam-3D. This new camera can capture dynamic scenes accurately and fast using Photoneo’s patented Parallel Structured Light technology, which ‘paralyses’ a scene to acquire multiple images of structured light in one frame. Thanks to the technology, MotionCam-3D can withstand shocks and vibrations. This means that dynamic scenes or movements of the camera do not cause any distortion of the final output or broken acquisition. The robust performance of MotionCam-3D ensures a high level of detail, even in areas that are generally challenging to scan.
New emerging technology and considerable advances in existing technology mean that machine vision is more powerful than ever at addressing the needs of many processes, including optimising production, 3D inspection, volumetrics, Intelligent warehousing and robot bin picking.