- The embedded vision (EV) market is predicted to reach 700 million units by 2016.
- Quality assurance is improved by examining parts before they reach the end of the line.
- Embedded vision machines still require human programming.
If you own a car with advanced driver assistance features or play games on Microsoft's Xbox Kinect, you're using embedded vision technology (EV). An EV system typically consists of an embedded controller with integrated vision software directly connected to one or more cameras. Today, EV is changing the face of the manufacturing industry.
National Instruments predicted the EV market would reach almost 700 million units by 2016. EV products used for factory automation include smart sensors and cameras; machine vision cameras, lighting and software; and compact vision systems, which combine cameras with a processor module. Machines become smarter when these components are integrated into an EV system.
A range of EV camera types and capabilities allows users to select the camera most suitable for each application. High-performance processors and more sophisticated smart cameras also are available. Camera options on EV systems surpass speeds of 1,000 full-frame images/sec, accommodating applications operating at thousands of parts per minute.
In the case of inventory tracking and management, an EV system integrates multiple real-time video analytics extracted from a single video stream with high-resolution cameras. Not only are detailed images of both work material and inventory tags provided, but objects are identified within them. ID tags associated with these objects are identified; and quality checks are performed.
In a production line, EV technology examines all parts and makes note of any issues. Any part not meeting established quality standards is rejected long before the final product reaches the end of the line and final inspection. The question is, will the benefits inherent in EV technology replace humans in quality control?
No, not quite yet. Human involvement is necessary to program production line technology. Humans determine what their EV equipment must look for when scanning parts and products. This second set of electronic eyes is proving useful.
EV technology in action
As regulations increase, manufacturers are continually looking for easier ways to maintain quality standards. Here are two examples that show how EV technology works in the manufacturing environment:
- An automotive parts manufacturer completely automated its assembly line using an EV system incorporating smart cameras, barcode readers and lighting equipment. The system controls robotics, detects quality issues and ensures each component is tracked from start to finish.
- In the highly-regulated pharmaceutical industry, one manufacturer combines an EV system with eight cameras, which simultaneously inspect each pill at a rate of up to 144,000 pills per hour. A processor determines pill presence, tracks pill results and outputs results to a motion controller in order to reject defective tablets, which are immediately removed. The EV system triggers cameras and lights, acquires images, runs inspection algorithms and delivers results.
As system technology evolves, prices will drop—making EV systems accessible to even more industries.