Pioneering visionaries push imaging envelope

Vision and imaging systems are methodically being accepted and applied because of their cost, time, and performance benefits. Early adopters of vision and imaging systems have traditionally been businesses such as factories, lumber mills, and dentists. These businesses have not only recognized the many benefits of vision and imaging systems, they have also more readily accepted leading-edge advancements.

Aug 1st, 1999

Pioneering visionaries push imaging envelope

George Kotelly

Executive Editor

georgek@pennwell.com

Vision and imaging systems are methodically being accepted and applied because of their cost, time, and performance benefits. Early adopters of vision and imaging systems have traditionally been businesses such as factories, lumber mills, and dentists. These businesses have not only recognized the many benefits of vision and imaging systems, they have also more readily accepted leading-edge advancements.

Dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons have been incorporating the latest imaging technology to replace costly, time-consuming, and hazardous x-ray technology. To generate 3-D dental images without the need for dual cameras and feature extraction, an innovative dental imaging system uses a single off-the-shelf CCD camera, a novel triangular configuration, a PC host, and a split-spectrum light source to obtain 2-D images of teeth casts. This process, says contributing editor Winn Hardin, is then translated by computer-aided software into 3-D images at real-time video rates.

The rudimentary timber industry has been an early adopter of sophisticated imaging technology because sawmills can produce more than 100 pieces per minute, much too fast for human inspectors to handle. By combining conventional digital color cameras and image-acquisition boards with custom digital-signal-processing modules and classification software, an automated timber-inspection and grading system can identify and characterize lumber defects in real time at full production rates, as reported by contributing editor John Haystead.

A leading-edge image-detection technology involves CMOS sensors. To simplify the production process while saving costs, semiconductor manufacturers are investigating the volume capabilities of standard CMOS fabrication lines to produce low-power, low-cost, highly integrated image-capture sensors. However, says editor at large Andrew Wilson, sensor suppliers are having to turn to nonstandard CMOS processes to overcome precision CMOS sensor-production problems.

Although advances in camera and imaging hardware and software continue unabated, lighting and optics methods still present design challenges to vision-system developers. In this month`s Product Focus, Andrew Wilson describes how suppliers are improving their light sources. Confronted with many choices, systems integrators are experimenting with structured, backlighting, ringlighting, dark-field illumination, and light-diffusion methods.

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