Smart cameras have quickly made their way into the automation industry over the past few years, and they are gradually transforming every vision system they are used in. Their small design and precise reading capabilities have made them particularly ideal for manufacturers that produce small products such as healthcare, entertainment and education industries. Despite having varying needs, manufacturers have leveraged automation specialists to successfully implement smart cameras into their diverse applications.
Why They Work
What makes smart cameras like the MicroHawk Barcode reader (which we’ve written an in-depth review of) ideal for these applications? The answer lies within a few of their unique capabilities. Smart cameras provide all the benefits of using PC-based machine vision systems that use numerous cameras while allowing engineers to place them in small spaces. They also provide many of the same capabilities, all within a smaller package:
- Localized pass/fail decision making
- Input/output part rejection
- Networked management
- Barcode reading
- Multiple image processing operations (image enhancement, feature location, object measurement, presence/absence detection)
- Part alignment
- Measurement and surface inspection
Here are few other ways in which compact smart cameras are changing the industry.
Independent Inspection at Multiple Locations
While PC-based systems feature cameras that are all hooked up to a single, centralized processing unit, newer smart cameras boast the ability to keep all inspection points separate, allowing for independent inspection and processing across multiple locations of an assembly. This has become the ideal technology for automotive assembly and other lines that require precise readings at specified points across their entire production process.
Compact Size and Durability
Some assembly lines leave ample space for large pieces of automation technology, some automation lines used to create smaller devices (medical devices, laboratory testing equipment, etc.) need a much smaller device that can fit and operate with precision in extremely cramped spaces. Smaller smart cameras have flexible mounting features that allow them to be securely mounted in nearly any space, regardless of how tight the conditions are. They also do not need to be hooked up to an external processing unit, limiting the amount of wires that need to be run into smaller spaces.
Despite their size, these cameras come encased in highly durable casings that protect them from many industrial elements.
Processing Power Without the Complex Setup
Despite their small size, some higher end smart cameras boast processing power that rivals PC-based systems that implement regular sets of cameras. What makes them even more attractive to manufacturers is their ease of use. They may have complex processing capabilities, but they are far easier to set up than PC-based systems because they include their imaging and processing technologies in a single compartment.
Easy to Use Software
System developers who seek easy ways to program their smart cameras no longer need to worry about complex software development tasks. Many manufacturers of smart cameras, like Omron, have simple user interfaces that allows users to easily program their cameras to operate seamlessly within their specific application. As an example, Microscan offers an AutoVISION GUI with its MicoHAWK series of smart cameras that can either be used independently (HTML page hosted on the camera) with its products or even integrated with a company’s VisionScape software for more advanced applications.