Tools for Illumination Specification

March 2, 2022
Getting illumination right for your application means starting early in the process and using all the tools available to you from lighting suppliers.

Lighting and illumination suppliers must keep up with camera advances to ensure the appropriate choices are available to systems integrators and end users. The variety of options help customers address the myriad challenges that exist for specifying proper illumination. Camera technology moves fast, and lighting and illumination providers work to keep pace with these developments. They also have various tools they can offer to help systems integrators and other end users ensure they specify the proper lighting for their applications—as early in the process as possible.

“Lighting components and their selection and integration play a crucial role in any vision system: good lighting, together with other vision components such as the camera and lens, is required to achieve the best possible results from your vision system,” says Emi Noffz-Eguchi, Product Market Manager, Companion Products at Basler AG (Ahrensburg, Germany; “Faulty lighting cannot be compensated for by any other component. Therefore, lighting components must offer quality, reliability, and long-term availability with a good price-performance ratio.”

Engineering Support/Evaluation

One tool in the toolbox for illumination providers is to provide testing services when a customer is in the specification stage. For example, Lindsey Dragan, Application Manager, CCS America (Woburn, MA, USA;, says, “One of our key tools is our testing service for both area scan (visible and SWIR) and line scan applications. Customers send us their samples and application conditions, and we evaluate which light is best for their application. This includes not only our LED lights for precision and flood lighting, but also other types of light sources like LED light source boxes, laser diodes, and halogen. Each test is summarized in a report detailing what solution gave the optimal image, the required setup for that image (including controller, camera, lens, working distance, etc.), other lights that were tested, and the reason they were not the correct choice.”

Opto Engineering (Mantova, Italy; offers feasibility studies performed by its experts directly on customer samples in its labs. “Customers can send test parts and describe their vision challenge, and Opto Engineering will perform tests and find the best illumination solution for their vision applications,” says Massimo Castelletti, Head of Marketing and Product Manager for Lighting. “Opto Engineering’s technical team has years of experience and can easily test a wide range of illumination solutions in laboratories located in Italy (Mantova), Germany (Munich), the United States (Houston), and China (Shanghai) and select the best light for the application.”

Takashi Shinozaki, manager, Sales Promotion Department, VS Technology (Tokyo, Japan;, says the company has a testing room with many demonstration units of industrial cameras, lenses, and lighting. “If you bring your inspection object (workpiece) to our testing room, our staff with lighting selection skills will be able to select the most appropriate lighting, camera, and lens, discuss installation conditions, and acquire images,” he says. “If you are a distant customer, you can send us your object (workpiece), and we can provide you with an experimental report of image acquisition.” He continues, “Selecting the best lighting requires a lot of work, information, and lighting knowledge, and we think it is difficult to put all these conditions into a tool such as the Web-based selecting tool, so we currently believe that the best way to examine this is by an engineer who has knowledge of lighting selection.”

According to Borja Anuzita, product manager, DCM Sistemes (Valencia, Spain;, the company offers a color test lamp as a tool to determine the most suitable wavelength. It also offers its laboratory as a free tool as well as its free equipment loan program. The company allows its customers to test its products free of charge for 15 days before purchase to confirm that they are the appropriate lighting solutions for their applications.

Advanced illumination (Rochester, VT, USA; has two programs available to customers for evaluating lighting solutions. First, it offers a Loaner Evaluation Program that allows customers to borrow an inventoried product for a 30-day period, free of charge. “This lets our customers test a light in their inspection environment before they make a purchase,” says John E. Thrailkill, Co-Founder and CEO. “In many cases, we find that using a ‘try before you buy’ model provides our customers with the most effective way of determining a solution for their applications.”

Second, it offers a Sample Evaluation Program. This program allows customers to send the company a part for evaluation by an application engineer, who will work one on one with customers to find a lighting solution that best fits their inspection needs at no extra cost.

TPL Vision (Perth, Scotland, UK; also offers a testing service where customers can send samples to the company and a loaner product for evaluation where customers can test the lighting in their system. However, customers can also use the company’s technical support service first. “Selecting the very best illumination for an application is not an easy task as it involves so many different variables,” says Caroline Winn, Vice President of Sales. “TPL Vision provides a technical support service to assist customers with identifying the optimum illumination for their applications and budgets. This service carefully reviews all aspects of the customer setup, including the sample material and color; the vision system used for the inspection; and details of the setup including working distance, field of view, smallest feature to be inspected, speed of movement, conveyor belt material, camera resolution and aperture, as well as the ambient lighting and environmental operating conditions.” Winn explains that this information is used to recommend one or more suitable illuminations for the customer to consider, and a free evaluation loan product is offered to the customer to test in their setup, if required. “TPL Vision also provides a free feasibility testing service where customers can send their samples to our vision engineer for testing with our extensive stock of evaluation lights and vision systems. Sample images and recommendations are provided to the customer free of charge,” she says.

At Metaphase Technologies (Bristol, PA, USA;, Mark Kolvites, Senior Technical Sales Manager, says, “Selecting the correct illuminator requires complete understanding of the application including, but not limited to, identifying the features of interest in the inspection, the objective of the overall automated inspection, the conditions/environment for light (i.e. washdown or high dust), light’s positional information (how close/far the light can be from the object under inspection), camera and lens resolution and depth of focus, the inspected part’s positional repeatability and movement speed, etc. One of the tools we provide customers is a complete ‘Light Analysis’ application questionnaire to make sure none of these important requirements/conditions mentioned are overlooked and are considered when selecting LED illumination. In addition to the light analysis document, we have a program where machine vison users can send us sample parts to test and determine optimal illumination as well as visit us with parts to assist in the testing the parts firsthand.” Metaphase has LED illuminator design engineers on staff but also experienced application engineers that act as an experienced consultant tool to advise not only on illumination but also on all aspects of a typical machine vision application. Metaphase also has a large library of sample application images but also example diagrams that illustrate how a particular shaped illuminator interacts with the object under inspection.

Steve Kinney, Director of Training, Compliance, & Technical Solutions, Smart Vision Lights (North Shores, MI, USA;, comments, “Proper illumination remains one of the most critical, but often overlooked, components to the success of a machine vision application. Customers often select a common ring or bar light, illuminate the subject matter, and deploy the application by simply trying to do the rest by software vision tools. However, the selection of proper illumination products and lighting geometry can emphasize or deemphasize key features that determine the success and robustness of the deployment.” To address these points, Kinney explains Smart Vision Lights consulting support tools available to customers. “SVL offers free consulting with our expert application engineers, including the use of our state-of-the-art demonstration lab. The lab is virtually connected for remote requests where the customer cannot physically visit our site. The application engineer can consult live with the customer on a smart application bench. From the bench, the user can see three views: live through the camera lens to see the end result with their sample and SVL proposed lighting; an overview shot of the bench where the customer can see the complete setup showing the lighting, camera, sample, and physical orientation and distances; and a live chat with the application engineer helping them to give a more personal feel to the session.”


ProPhotonix (Salem, NH, USA; also offers demonstration products, but usually starts with application engineer support. “From the outset, ProPhotonix offers application support to customers through our application engineers,” says Simon Stanley, Director of Technology. “Our knowledgeable team of engineers can support system designers by, for example, recommending configurations of our established product range, optical modeling using Zemax, or spectral simulation for multispectral applications.” “When a product is agreed upon, ProPhotonix offers free demonstration products allowing system designers to test the product in their system.”

Application engineer support and a demo program are also available from Spectrum Illumination (Montague, MI; USA; Engineering support is available through the “Contact Us” page on Spectrum’s Website, or customers can call the company directly. Customers can also send Spectrum items to image in its lab. “We can then mockup their application, take photos, and provide a product recommendation based on what light works best,” says David Hardy, Design Engineer/VP. “And if a customer still isn’t sure or perhaps has a product that would be too large to send for in-house testing, we offer a simple 30-day demo program that allows them to try/test out a lighting solution before they purchase.”

Jason Baechler, President, MORITEX North America (San Jose, CA, USA;, states, “Our sales team has a lot of experience with lighting applications and will help customers solve their applications. For more advanced applications, we can bring in our application engineer or even the illumination product design engineers to review application requirements and even run illumination simulations. We can also provide sample images with customer product or similar objects. Since most applications need real world testing to prove out the solution, we offer a wide variety of demo samples for customers to test and evaluate on site.”

Web Tools/Training

Besides engineering support and product evaluation opportunities, illumination product providers offer a variety of other tools to aid in specifying proper lighting for vision applications.

For example, there are Website resources available from Spectrum Illumination to help customers determine the right light and specifications for their applications. First, under the resources page, users can find helpful content. For those who have specific needs regarding the lighted area and intensity, users can find documents on lens options and LED specifications. There are also case studies or product application brochures that provide specific examples of products in use. Along with these resources, the Website has product videos that cover different product lines. The company’s “Lens Options” and “LED Specifications” documents can also help with specifying proper illumination. Users can peruse product case studies or product application brochures, which provide specific examples of products in use. They can help users who have a similar application or be a starting point for those who are new to machine vision.

Basler consults with customers primarily through its sales team, but it also has articles in what it calls its “Vision Campus” on its Website that include general tips for the right lighting. Its Website also includes numerous lighting product pages.

Opto Engineering offers free and paid educational content. The “BASICS” section on its Website contains a comprehensive introduction to the main concepts of machine vision, including lighting. Specifically, it covers what parameters must be considered when selecting illumination, provides an overview of existing illumination geometries and techniques, and explains how to select the most appropriate wavelength and LED pulsing and strobing. Its on-demand class on optics and illumination explores a variety of topics including an introduction to the basics of industrial optics and illumination technology, strategies to select the most suitable illumination, and the use and application of optical filters and flash controllers. It also offers LED illuminators selection charts.

Baechler says, “Of course, MORITEX provides catalogs and Website information that show the basic specs and also provides more advanced application information such as lighting area, power, uniformity information, etc. as well.” For example, MORITEX offers an application configuration tool. “Since MORITEX is both a lens and illumination supplier, we offer a ‘lens finder’ tool and also an ‘illumination finder’ tool where the user can input the various important parameters or variables of an application, and then product recommendations are given along with specific setup information,” Baechler adds.

According to Kinney, Smart Vision Lights offers both in-person and virtual training to help customers understand lighting principals and proper selection for an application. There are six free on-site two-day classes scheduled so far for 2022. Datasheets offer simple icons to suggest the primary lighting properties of a particular product. And, its Website has an active/smart selection guide that allows the customer to input specific parameters and see the resultant products that fit within the given inputs.

DCM Sistemes offers a customized search engine on its Website. Customers can choose between different types of light, types of illumination, colors, modes, families, aperture, IP rating, etc. Customers can choose all parameters or just those relevant for their projects, and the results will show everything the company has that suits their applications.

Advanced illumination’s online configuration tool allows customers to tailor its lighting products to fit their needs. Using the Web interface, one can select from hundreds of thousands of SKUs. The company’s size comparison tool is for customers with specific size constraints. It gives users a condensed view of multiple mechanical drawings. Mounting features and overall dimensions are included to aid in the selection process.

The company also offers a variety of technical resources including white papers, application notes, case studies, lighting guides, specification sheets, and videos. And for groups of sufficient size, its technical sales specialists are available for onsite training.

CCS America provides several learning tools to help customers feel comfortable solving applications on their own. The tools teach customers how to use CCS America’s lights as well as basic and advanced machine vision lighting principles. The company offers individual and group training sessions on a variety of topics that can be customized for individual companies or industries. In addition, its Lighting Principles Webinar series is available online, so anyone interested can learn about the geometric and wavelength properties used in machine vision lighting.

Many, if not most, machine vision and imaging applications have some sort of lighting challenge that must be addressed in order to capture the highest-quality images possible. Getting it right early means doing your homework prior to spec’ing the system. Lighting and illumination providers will work with you in a variety of ways to ensure you are set up for success. 

About the Author

Chris Mc Loone | Editor in Chief

Former Editor in Chief Chris Mc Loone joined the Vision Systems Design team as editor in chief in 2021. Chris has been in B2B media for over 25 years. During his tenure at VSD, he covered machine vision and imaging from numerous angles, including application stories, technology trends, industry news, market updates, and new products.

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