Business Vision

Last month at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA, nearly 100 exhibitors displayed their latest products, systems, and technologies for machine-vision applications to more than 2530 attendees at Vision Show East, the first major trade show ...

May 1st, 2000
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Inaugural Vision Show East excels

Last month at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, MA, nearly 100 exhibitors displayed their latest products, systems, and technologies for machine-vision applications to more than 2530 attendees at Vision Show East, the first major trade show and conference on the East Coast sponsored by the Automated Imaging Association (AIA; Ann Arbor, MI; www.automated-imaging.org). The show was a huge success based on large daily crowds, packed booths, crammed sessions, and positive overall enthusiasm by both exhibitors and visitors.

Jeffrey Burnstein, AIA executive director, commented, "Many of the attendees have been unable to attend our annual Vision Show on the West Coast and were eager to attend a show closer to their company. As a result, this show drew a large percentage of end users and OEMs with immediate needs for machine vision, which should help stimulate new growth in the second half of this year."

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The show also offered four tutorials and 11 conference sessions. The tutorials covered the fundamentals of machine vision; how to integrate machine vision, lighting and optics applications; and how to select machine-vision components. The sessions discussed PC-based vision developments and costs, robotic and web-inspection vision, color-processing methods, advances in digital cameras and image acquisition, label inspection, lighting and optics, and emerging machine-vision applications.

In the session "New Developments in PC-based Vision," Jerry Fife, product manager, visual imaging systems, Sony Electronics Inc. (Park Ridge, NJ), presented a short course in IEEE-1394, a high-performance serial bus known as FireWire for the bidirectional transfer of digital data at speeds to 400 Mbit/s. He emphasized the IEEE-1394 benefits of high speed and bandwidth, flexible networking, simplified cabling, and low cost.

Another speaker, Michelle Chaput, marketing communications manager, Imaging Technology Inc. (Bedford, MA), covered pattern-finding/search capabilities. She described how geometric-based search software precisely locates features despite degraded images, detects 360° angle changes, reports angle variances from the trained pattern, and provides distinct information about variations in images relative to the trained pattern.

Also, Faycal Benayad-Cherif, principal researcher, Intelligent Automation Systems Inc. (Cambridge, MA), spoke on improving inspection processes by combining 2- and 3-D vision techniques. He concluded that 2- and 3-D techniques complement each other for such applications as robotic guidance, metrology measurements, and parts inspection, but not all applications need both.

At "What's New in Digital Cameras and Image Acquisition," Nathaniel McCaffrey, head of the advanced imaging group, Sarnoff Corp. (Princeton, NJ), presented work on CMOS active pixel sensors with extended dynamic range. This effort uses standard CMOS process flows and scalable architectures, focuses on video rate imagers with film-like responses, and aims at producing low-cost ASIC digital cameras on a chip with wide dynamic range, low voltage and power, and short latency turn-on times.

Another speaker at this session, Karl Gunnarsson, vice president of Metolius Inc. (Woodinville, WA), talked about a smart single-chip CMOS camera that can simultaneously acquire images for gray-scale level, RGB color structure, laser scatter, and 3-D profile features. The 512 x 512-pixel chip also contains 512 analog-to-digital converters and 512 processing elements.

Joseph Sgro, chief executive officer, Alacron Inc. (Nashua, NH), offered some smart-camera-design considerations for machine-vision applications. He concluded that sensor technology developments, increasing bandwidth with processing capabilities, and faster input/output data rates will spur the machine-vision industry to consider smart cameras. Moreover, intelligent cameras have the potential to simplify and reduce the costs associated with installing a machine-vision platform, he said.

A programming-free smart camera called ZiCAM for inspection applications was described by Manish Shelat, product marketing manager, Pulnix America Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA). This camera implements zero instruction set computer and digital neural-network chip technologies for high-performance pattern recognition and classification. In addition to dynamic reconfigurable computing, it can make and validate decisions, needs no programming, simplifies feature extraction, and connects to Ethernet networks.

New products introduced

On the exhibitor floor, numerous vision products were introduced, especially lighting and optics devices, cameras, and frame grabbers, as well as boards, modules, and software tools. Attendees clogged the aisles for most of three days, and many exhibitors were overwhelmed with attendee quality, experience, and interest. Some exhibitors reported that visitors seeking immediate vision solutions were escorted back to company facilities for serious business discussions.

In the camera area, DALSA Inc. (Waterloo, Ont., Canada) unveiled its Eclipse programmable linescan sensor. Claimed to deliver a responsivity of 1950 or 100 times greater than other standard linescan cameras, it is available in 512-, 1024-, and 2048-pixel resolutions. Pulnix America Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA) introduced its smart monochrome ZiCAM 1/2-in. progressive-scan interline transfer CCD camera with programming-free neural-network technology. And, JAI America Inc. (Laguna Hills, CA) displayed its double-speed CV-M40 progressive-scan camera that provides up to 233 frames/s with partial scan; the CV-l03 (4-MHz pixel frequency and 2000-line/s scan rate) and the CV-105 (30-MHz pixel frequency and 14-kHz scan rate) color linescan cameras that offer 2048-pixel resolution; the CV-M2000 line of color microhead cameras with three video output formats; and the self-contained CV-M820 color interline1/2-in. CCD camera.

As for boards and modules, MuTech Corp. (Billerica, MA) presented the M-Vision 510 monochrome PCI frame grabber and the Image/VGA 460 frame grabber and VGA display controller. The 510 board captures composite RS-170/CCIR video and noninterlaced video from progressive-scan cameras. The 460 board digitizes video images from RGB or monochrome sources in real time and displays them inside a resizable video window on the computer's VGA monitor.

DVT Corp. (Norcross, GA) demonstrated the SmartLink interface box for its line of SmartImage sensors. This box can monitor inspections without a PC, transfer images via the Ethernet, view multiple inspection images from different SmartImage sensors, and deliver optional Profibus or DeviceNet connectivity.

Alacron Inc. (Nashua, NH) unveiled the FastImage 1300 frame grabber, which contains four Philips' TriMedia 1300 processors. It can handle continuous and simultaneous image acquisition from one of four selectable composite NTSC/PAL video streams and up to four digital or three analog video streams generated by line- or area-scan cameras. I2S-Line Scan (Niskayuna, NY) offered its Horizon 4-LC interface board for digital linescan monochrome and color cameras. It provides four 8-bit differential input channels, camera setup parameter control, and 32-bit plug and play PCI interface. Lincoln Laser (Phoenix, AZ) exhibited its 2D-InspectionModule that integrates lasers, optics, modulators, electronics, and scanning components to produce a scanning spot. And Cognex Corp. (Natick, MA) demonstrated its In-Sight 2000 industrial machine-vision sensor system that requires no PC or programming and comes with proven vision software tools.

New illumination products included fiber-Lite A-240 150-W, dc-stabilized fiberoptic illuminators from Dolan-Jenner Industries (Lawrence, MA). Housed in a metal chassis and delivering a lamp color temperature of 3200 K and a lamp output of 400,000 foot-candles, the A-240 dual and low-profile models hold up to three filters and work with 115 or 230 Vac at 50-60 Hz. Stocker & Yale (Salem, NH) and CCS America Inc. (Waltham, MA) displayed arrays of light-emitting diode products.

In the imaging software area, Foresight Imaging (Chelmsford, MA) announced Common Vision Blox software drivers for its I-series of frame grabbers and video streamers. Integral Vision (Farmington Hills, MI) released its Common Vision Blox 7.0 software. This package includes a Barcode Tool ActiveX control, a Minos Tool ActiveX control, an enhanced Feature Find tool, and an extended Vision Tool Integration Kit. HexaVision Technologies Inc. (Sainte Foy, Quebec, Canada) demonstrated its HexSight, Version 2.0 machine-vision software. Upgraded features covered automatic part teach, programmatic access to all functions and properties, and randomly oriented parts location of 25 ms (typical) and with a precision of 1/40-pixel resolution and 0.01° in rotation.

George KotellyEditor in Chief
georgek@pennwell.com

Alliances accelerate

BAE Systems of the United Kingdom is using Skybolt II multicomputers from Sky Computers (Chelmsford, MA; www.sky.com) to develop a radar signal-processing system for naval surveillance and target indication. DERA, an agency of the UK's Ministry of Defence, is funding the system development through its Pathfinder Program. The goal is to reduce the size of the present system from six chassis of proprietary hardware to one VME-based chassis while improving real-time processing response.

ViewSonic Corp. (Walnut, CA; www.viewsonic.com), a supplier of visual display technologies and products in North America, has signed a letter of intent to acquire Nokia Display Products (Helsinki, Finland; www.nokia.com) branded business. The agreement gives ViewSonic access to Nokia's high-end display products worldwide, an increased European sales force, and a customer base in both Europe and the Americas. In a related development, Elcoteq has acquired Nokia's monitor manufacturing unit in Pecs, Hungary. Elcoteq will provide contract-manufacturing services to ViewSonic for Nokia-branded display products.

Adept Technology Inc. (San Jose, CA; www.adept.com), a manufacturer of industrial robots and factory automation products, has been selected by SIG Pack of Switzerland (www.sigpack.com) to provide AdeptMotion VME controllers for its RoboPack automated packaging system.

Key Technology Inc. (Walla Walla, WA; www.keyww.com), a designer and manufacturer of process automation systems, has agreed to merge with Advanced Machine Vision Corp. (Medford, OR), a designer and manufacturer of machine-vision systems.

Technology trends

Intel Corp. (Santa Clara, CA; www.intel.com) has demonstrated the company's fastest microprocessor—the Williamette 32-bit chip that runs at 1.5 GHz. Some key chip features include a hyper pipelined architecture, a streaming SIMD Extensions 2 set of 144 new instructions, and a 400-MHz system bus.

SI Diamond Technology Inc. (Austin, TX) has successfully demonstrated a 4-in.-diagonal monochrome HyFed prototype display. This technology combines the best properties of cathode-ray tubes and field-emission displays using proprietary diamond/carbon films.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD; Sunnyvale, CA; www.amd.com/athlon/) is shipping 900-, 950-, and 1-GHz Athlon processors. These processors are x86-compatible, seventh-generation designs that feature a superpipelined, nine-issue microarchitecture; superscalar floating-point unit; 128 kbytes of on-chip L1 cache and a programmable L2 cache; 24 additional instructions; a 200-MHz system

Texas Instruments (TI; Houston, TX; www.ti.com/newdspcores) has unveiled two digital signal processor (DSP) cores. The TMS320C64x delivers clock speeds to 1.1 GHz and performance near 9000 million instructions per second (MIPS), a 10X DSP improvement over the C62x. The TMS320C55x reduces power consumption to 0.05 mW per MIPS and provides up to 800 MIPS. Both cores are software-compatible with TI's previous DSPs and software environments.

Market vision

According to Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (Mountain View, CA; www.semi.org), the North American-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment achieved a third-straight month of record orders in January 2000 with a book-to-bill ratio of 1.34. This ratio, which means $134 in orders were received for every $100 worth of products shipped, is the third highest since these data have been compiled and the highest in nearly five years. The three-month average of worldwide shipments in January 2000 was $1.6 billion, which is 2% above the December 1999 shipment level and 82% above the January 1999 shipment level of $890 million.

A marketing study performed by Frost & Sullivan (Mountain View, CA; www.frost.com) forecasts that the US industrial robotics simulation and control software market is now valued at $4.6 billion and will increase by 28.7% in 2003 to nearly $6 billion. The study estimates that 125,000 robots have been installed in North American manufacturing facilities since 1960.

DisplaySearch (Austin, TX; www.displaysearch.com), a flat-panel display (FPD) market research company, expects the $18.5 billion FPD market to grow at an annual 24.8% rate and reach a $69.9 billion market in 2005. It forecasts that FPDs will surpass cathode-ray tubes sales in 2004 and account for 54% of the $130 billion total display market in 2005.

Corning Inc. (Corning, NY; www.corning.com), a supplier of electronic, optical, and photonic products, has acquired the Photonics Technology Research Center of British Telecommunications plc (Martlesham, Suffolk, England), a provider of optical components, optical system research, and telecommunications services, for approximately $66 million.

Mercury Computer Systems Inc. (Chelmsford, MA; www.mc.com), a supplier of embedded real-time digital-signal and image-processing computer systems, has entered into a preferred supplier corporate purchase agreement with Raytheon Electronic Systems (El Segundo, CA) to provide RACE Series PCI and VME multicomputer systems.

Dalsa Corp. (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; www.dalsa.com), a supplier of semiconductor image sensor chips and digital cameras, has completed the acquisition of MedOptics (Tucson, AZ), a supplier of digital x-ray medical imaging cameras, for $4.5 million.

Scanalytics Inc. (Fairfax, VA; www.cspi.com), the supplier of IPLab image processing and analysis software, and VayTek Inc. (Fairfield, IA; www.vayfield.com), the supplier of HazeBuster and MicroTome Macintosh-based 3-D deconvolution software programs for microscope images, have signed a marketing and development agreement that allows Scanalytics to maintain and distribute all of VayTek's deconvolution software.

PEP Modular Computers (Pittsburgh, PA USA; www.PEP.com), a supplier of 3U and 6U CompactPCI and VME board and system products, has acquired 50% of all shares in ROTEC Industrial Automation (Rastatt, Germany), a system product supplier for the control and automation markets. In addition, PEP has built a 50,000-sq ft headquarters facility in Kaufbeuren, Germany. In another expansion move, PEP has established separate business units and managers for CompactPCI—Wolfgang Eisenbarth—and for VMEbus cards—Norbert Hauser.

Cedara Software Corp. (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; www.cedara. com), a supplier of medical imaging software, is collaborating with the UCLA Medical Center to design and implement a cardiology imaging workstation, where images captured by multiple modalities will be integrated for review, summary, and analysis.

The Security Systems Group of Panasonic Security & Digital Imaging Co. (Secaucus, NJ; www.panasonic. com/cctv) has entered into a technology partnering agreement with Simplex Time Recorder Co. (Gardner, MA) to design and develop CCTV products, systems, and technologies for a range of security, fire detection, and building communication applications.

Management moves

Mercury Computer Systems Inc. (Chelmsford, MA; www.mc.com) has promoted Craig Lund to chief technology officer and Arlan Pool to the company's first Mercury Fellow. . . . The US Display Consortium (San Jose, CA; www.usdc.org) has elected Jeffrey D. Buchanan, executive vice president-finance, administration, and legal, as well as chief financial officer and director at Three-five Systems, as chairman of its governing board of directors. . . . Ixthos Inc. (Leesburg, VA; www.ixthios.com), a supplier of board-level DSP products, has promoted Lynn Patterson to vice president of sales and marketing; general manager Tom Quinly assumes the duties of vice president of business systems and chief financial officer at parent company DY 4 Systems Inc. (Kanata, Ontario, Canada; www.dy4.com).

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