LUCID Vision Labs Q&A: Machine vision cameras for an evolving market

Vision Systems Design spoke with industry veteran Rod Barman, Founder and President of LUCID Vision Labs about the new company’s product line-up and its plans for the future. Previously, Rod was the Founder, President and VP of Engineering at Point Grey and for 19 years he directed Point Grey’s year-over-year growth into a worldwide leader of industrial cameras.

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Vision Systems Design spoke with industry veteran Rod Barman, Founder and President of LUCID Vision Labsabout the new company’s product line-up and its plans for the future. Previously, Rod was the Founder, President and VP of Engineering at Point Grey and for 19 years he directed Point Grey’s year-over-year growth into a worldwide leader of industrial cameras.

LUCID VISION Labs says: With LUCID Vision Labs, another camera manufacturer has emerged in the machine vision landscape. Not just “another” though – with thorough market knowledge, a clear vision and unique product features, the company has all the required resources at its disposal to be successful in today’s competitive market.

As a new company, how is LUCID Vision Labs setting itself apart?

First and foremost, we have an extremely passionate and experienced team who thrives on questioning the status quo when it comes to product development – Is there a better way? Can it be smaller? Can it be faster? How can we deliver more value to our customers?

Whether it’s solving unique design challenges of our customers today or innovating dynamically to create products that help our customers succeed in their vision tomorrow. We are still a young company and can be faster and more flexible than some of the market leaders, but large enough to keep up with them in terms of stability, product availability and commitment.

We are also seeing a tremendous potential of Industry 4.0 where we want to introduce new technologies that will help transform our customer’s vision systems and make them ready for the new era of industrial production and smart factory.

As of now, you offer the Phoenix (which you tout as the world’s smallest/lightest GigE Vision PoE camera) and the soon-to-be launched Triton cameras. Please briefly describe why these were the first products developed by your company, and for what type of applications they are best suited.

Both camera families, the Phoenix and the Triton, offer unique capabilities and address market needs we’ve identified early on which are currently not being addressed well with existing solutions. For example, integrating standard industrial machine vision cameras into OEM products or systems can be challenging due to physical space constraints and limited flexibility. Customers are frequently required to either source expensive custom solutions or engineer their own by reconfiguring standard products.

For this reason, we developed the world’s smallest GigE PoE camera called the Phoenix, measuring only 24 x 24 mm that has a unique transformable design and can be simply configured to meet a wide range of OEM designs. We wanted to create a micro- compact, versatile and flexible camera design that is unique in the industry. We tri-folded the Phoenix board layout into a stacked camera where it resembles a traditional cased camera shape. However, individual board stacks can be unfolded to best fit the application.

For example, it can be used as a 90° angle camera shape for corner mounting or even as a 180° angle shape for the ultimate custom fit which offers broader flexibility in system design. The Phoenix features NF-mount and lens options to provide an even smaller footprint, as well as Hirose’s ix Industrial Ethernet connector which takes 70% less space than RJ45 sockets. There is currently no other comparable GigE PoE camera that measures only 24 x 24 mm in the market. Its design creates a very small and lightweight form factor, making the camera easy to integrate into OEM products and applications such as factory automation, medical, scientific and logistics.

The Triton camera, on the other hand, was developed as the next evolution of ruggedized industrial cameras. Featuring a robust housing, the Triton is designed to be used in a variety of industrial environments such as factory automation, food inspection and agriculture where dust, dirt or water can be present. Most IP67 rated cameras and enclosures have traditionally been bulky and expensive, and therefore users often have to make a decision between paying a significant price premium or exposing the camera to environmental risks.

With the Triton, users can now have robust, industrial protection at a very similar price point as a standard 29 x 29 mm camera. The camera supports C-Mount lenses and has a threaded lens tube that can be installed over the lens to provide IP67 protection. The camera is interfaced via an industry standard M12 Ethernet connector for data transmission and an M8 connector for triggering.

One of your Phoenix camera models features a polarized sensor. What led to this being developed, and why?

Polarization imaging is a very interesting technology as it allows customers to identify many material properties that are impossible to see with conventional monochrome or color sensors.Many vision systems face challenges in identifying key features under low contrast or highly-reflective imaging conditions. By adding polarization to our Phoenix camera family, we are taking our sensing technologies beyond the visible and are able to significantly enhance detection capabilities.

Featuring a 5 MPixel global shutter sensor with a pixel size of 3.45 µm and frame rates of up to 24 fps, the Phoenix polarized camera is based on the popular IMX250 Sony Pregius CMOS mono sensor with polarizing filters added to the pixels. The sensor has four different directional polarizing filters (0°, 90°, 45°, and 135°) on every four pixels. The pixel data can be used to calculate polarization data such as the degree and angle of linear polarization.

You also offer the Arena software development kit. What are some the unique features of this?

The Arena SDK has been developed from ground up using the latest technologies to provide users with the best experience possible. Its flexible UI framework is based on HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, modernizing the approach, look and maintenance of user applications. The GenICam 3.0 based C++ API leverages GenICam’s Reference Implementation for robustness, stability and reliability and uses the Standard Feature Naming Convention (SFNC) for camera features and control.

It has been designed for forward-compatibility with new device features and enables fully-featured chunk data support, device events and triggers. The Lightweight Filter (LWF) driver improves image transfer performance and lowers CPU usage when streaming large images at small packet sizes. The Arena SDK supports the C++, C and .NET libraries and Python is planned to be added in the future. All LUCID cameras feature a built-in web interface for easy firmware updates and with additional capabilities to be added in the near future.

What are some areas where you see high potential growth?

We are seeing a major shift in the industry driven by many emerging technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, deep learning, embedded vision, etc. It is an exciting time and opportunity to be part of this new era of industrial production where machine vision will play a central role in smart manufacturing, but also in many emerging applications outside of the factory.

In addition to IEEE 1588, more standardized Time Sensitive Network (TSN) technologies are being developed by the IEEE 802.1 working group that will offer deterministic operations between Ethernet connected devices. These solutions will provide critical real-time communication on the same physical network, guaranteed latency and low-jitter connectivity.

Another interesting initiative is the OPC UA Vision standard led by the VDMA to enable easy integration of machine vision in Industry 4.0 and smart factories of the future.

How do you plan on factoring into these growth areas?

We plan to focus on areas where we see a strategic fit and where we can react quickly. Product differentiation and time-to-market are key. For example, the compact, transformable form factor of the Phoenix can address many of the embedded vision applications that we want to target. We are constantly monitoring the market for emerging trends and aligning our product roadmap to meet these high growth opportunities.

What is next for LUCID?

We describe our vision simply as “5 in 5” which means that we aim to be one of the top five camera suppliers with five years and become an established vendor on a global scale. But ultimately, we would like our customers to know us for innovative, high quality products that provide real value to them, and in the long run to trust us as a competent partner for Industry 4.0 vision technology.

View more information on LUCID Vision Labs.

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