Perhaps we should not judge a book by its cover, people by their clothing, or a beauty lotion by its packaging. This, however, is often the case. Our cover story by contributing editor Charlie Masi on cosmetic packaging emphasizes the value of machine vision in making good judgments. In this case, a smart-camera-based vision system ensures that the right cosmetic ingredient is put into each tube and that each crimp seal is aligned correctly with the silk-screened label. Fussy customers will not reject these beauty products because of appearance defects!
Such intelligent vision systems are making it easier and more appealing for many industries to deploy vision systems. Luckily, life is also becoming easier for makers of vision products and systems integrators. Interface standards such as FireWire and Camera Link, versatile off-the-shelf sensors and chipsets, intuitive software tools, and camera reference design modules have all helped ease the development process. In our Technology Trends section, we show how companies such as Dage-MTI (Michigan City, IN, USA; www.dagemti.com) are using these developments to broaden their product lines by bringing new cameras to market.
Icon-based intuitive software tools is the subject of our Product Focus this month, and editor Andy Wilson makes the case for the value of programs such as LabVIEW from National Instruments (Austin, TX, USA; www.ni.com), WiT from Coreco Imaging (St.-Laurent, QC, Canada; www.corecoimaging.com), and Workbench from MontiVison Imaging Technologies (Breholtz, Germany; www.montivision.com). These programs are easy to use, configure, and deploy and allow machine-vision systems to be easily integrated with motion-control and test-and-measurement equipment-a trend that is rapidly becoming more apparent.
But ease of use is a relative term, and, as Michael Negin notes in the Business Views interview, in some ways vision technology has become more difficult. As technology grows more sophisticated, many customers increase their expectations of performance without understanding how much more complex and expensive their vision systems may become. Negin sees a critical need for software-independent devices and hardware-independent software because interconnectivity and interchangeability among components must become the norm for the machine-vision industry to grow.
Negin mentions a coming fundamental shift in vision applications from “engineered environments” such as factory floors to nonengineered applications in transportation systems, grocery stores, security, and surveillance. As if to second this thought, read our Technology Trends article on shrunken sensors, or “motes.” These wireless network sensors relay data from one tiny mote to a neighboring mote until the information reaches its destination. Not only are mote networks beginning to multiply, but at least one can transmit real-time video.
W. Conard Holton
Editor in Chief