With the snow melting in the northern climes, many long-dormant life forms are emerging into the sunlight.
With the snow melting in the northern climes, many long-dormant life forms are emerging into the sunlight. Likewise, some ideas-and technologies-that have been germinating in the machine-vision and image-processing worlds seem almost suddenly to be bursting into sunlight. As I reviewed the articles in this issue I was struck by how these new ideas and technologies are now finding their place in machine-vision applications. The articles this month indicate that many long-discussed but seldom seen technologies are becoming more commonplace. These include advanced CCD and CMOS sensors, Gigabit Ethernet cameras, neural networks, and infrared imaging.
The debate over CCD versus CMOS image sensors, for example, has dragged on longer than a northern winter, but the article on these technologies by Martin Wäny of Awaiba provides a fresh perspective that helps put both technologies in a favorable light. He describes some of the recent design innovations that give each image-sensor type a specific role in machine-vision systems.
Our cover story, written by editor Andrew Wilson, highlights the impact that GigE cameras and Gigabit Ethernet networking can have. In this case, six high-speed networked cameras inspect glass tubes used in fluorescent lighting. System integrator Automation Software & Engineering has used low-cost cabling and switches, software-development packages, and GigE cameras to develop a system that was relatively inexpensive to manufacture and simple to install. Another article describes how neural-network-based software is finally gaining ground in machine-vision applications, where sophisticated image classification must be performed at high speed.
Our Product Focus written by editor Andy Wilson describes how infrared (IR) cameras are now finding creative applications in PCB analysis to detect shots and thermal anomalies. Although proponents of IR imaging have long argued that the technology could have significant value outside of its traditional realms, only recently has this technology been used in machine-vision applications. Wilson also discusses how IR imaging can spot gas leaks in industrial processing plants. The cameras use an atypical technique known as gas-correlation imaging, which relies on monitoring the full gas spectrum using both IR and visible cameras.
An economic “spring” seems to be taking place in many eastern European countries, including Slovakia, which recently joined the European Union. Slovakia is the home of our Business Views interviewee, Martin Balog of Datalan. As he notes, machine vision is becoming more in demand for applications that require integrated and sophisticated manufacturing systems.
With the dawning of spring, there comes hope of new birth. With it should also be the willingness of manufacturers, system integrators, and end users alike to embrace new technologies and products and the applications they will serve.
W. Conard Holton
Editor in Chief