An engineer recently remarked to me that an artist creates something that may live on for centuries while an electronics engineer creates things that last five years, until the next new product replaces it. Our conversation had started out, innocently enough, on the topic of color imaging and the nature of color and then turned to the evocative names given to artists’ paints, such as alizarin crimson, phthalo green, or cobalt blue. I mentioned that some paints have very long histories: yellow ochre, for example, is derived from the same iron oxide pigments used 15,000 years ago to decorate the cave walls at Lascaux with images of horses and bison.
For an introduction to the nature of color, read Wilson’s Websites, which provides several definitions of color and identifies Web sites describing research now underway. An article by Jason Dougherty of Midwest Optical Systems adds new shades of understanding with his discussion of the uses of optical filters in color inspection. In fact, he shows that in machine vision a color image does not always provide the most useful information about a scene. Monochrome remains the imaging technology of choice for most machine-vision applications. It works well in two different applications described in this issue. The first concerns the use of partial-scan cameras and an off-the-shelf vision system to inspect pharmaceutical packages, and the second concerns a high-speed vision system that monitors the production of insulating fibers under extremely harsh conditions.
Just as artists combine various colors to render their paintings, engineers must also combine often disparate technologies when developing sophisticated automation systems. Indeed, machine vision, image processing, motion control, automation, and robotics are complementary technologies that are interwoven throughout each issue of Vision Systems Design. In particular, three of our features this month show how these products and technologies have been integrated into systems.
Our cover story, for example, describes the maturing of vision-guided, unstructured bin picking, which automates automotive manufacturing and other industrial processes. The use of a vision-guided minirobot in sintering powdered metal is the topic of another feature showing how a combination of technologies enable creation of new products. And, editor Andy Wilson looks at a significant area of growth for the machine-vision industry-automated, vision-based inspection of flat panels.
These same technologies and products will be on display this month at the International Robots & Vision Show, in Rosemont, IL, outside Chicago. The show will include a wide-ranging technical conference, lively demonstration pavilions, and exhibit halls full of advanced products.
Ancient cave paintings remain testimony to mankind’s inventiveness in mixing various primitive colors to achieve long-lasting results. Similarly, today’s system integrators are proving that they too have an invigorating, even colorful, role to play in combining machine vision, positioning, and robotics-based systems.