Vision takes center stage at Assembly Expo

Thousands of manufacturing professionals converged on the September 2004 Assembly Technology Expo (ATExpo), held in Rosemont, IL; nearly 600 companies displayed and demonstrated products for use in the automotive, electronics, industrial, computer, and medical industries.

Nov 1st, 2004

Thousands of manufacturing professionals converged on the September 2004 Assembly Technology Expo (ATExpo), held in Rosemont, IL; nearly 600 companies displayed and demonstrated products for use in the automotive, electronics, industrial, computer, and medical industries. Held simultaneously with the exhibition, the ATExpo conference, developed by organizations including the Automated Imaging Association (AIA; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; www.machinevisiononline.org) and the Robotics Industry Association (RIA; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; www.roboticsonline.com), offered sessions on lean production, flexible assembly, and robotics in assembly. Recognizing the increasing role of machine vision in automated systems, next years AIA’s International Robots and Vision Show will be collocated with Assembly Technology Expo, with both the AIA and RIA joining forces to offer five conference sessions on robotics and machine vision.

Certainly, machine vision played a large part in the success of this year’s show, with more than 20 OEM suppliers of lighting, illumination, machine vision, and industrial control companies showing their products. These included cameras from FSI Machine Vision (Lombard, IL, USA; www.fsinet.com), Industrial Products Group (IPG; Minneapolis, MN, USA; www.ppsindprod.com), Raytheon Infrared (Dallas, TX, USA; www.raytheoninfrared. com), and Videology (Greenville, RI, USA; www.videologyinc.com); machine-vision systems from ipd (Billerica, MA, USA; www.goipd.com); and an unannounced camera/machine-vision system from Wengler (Beavercreek, OH, USA; www.wenglor.com).

Daniel Lentsch, director of marketing and sales at IPG, spoke of his company’s success in marketing a stand-alone custom optical gauging system built for Honeywell Manufacturing and Technologies (Kansas City, KS, USA; www.kcp.com). Using the company’s own positioning stages and stepper drives, the system has an off-the-shelf camera coupled with a PC-based frame grabber from Matrox (Dorval, QC, Canada; www.matrox.com/imaging) to inspect wire connections within a specialized miniature harness. “To illuminate each part,” says Lentsche, “we built a custom warm circular LED light that was mounted to the camera.” This is now offered as an OEM product by the company.

At its booth, ipd announced its latest machine-vision system, iNspect, a vision “appliance” targeted at industrial end users. With the ability to accommodate views and processing for up to three cameras, the iNspect offers several choices of interface including a primary setup and configuration interface. iNspect can also run from a custom, user-defined Visual Basic front end and uses standard interface protocols, such as Modbus and Ethernet/IP, for communicating with devices such as PLCs from Omron (Schaumburg, IL, USA; www.omron.com) and Allen-Bradley Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, WI, USA; www.ab.com). At the show, the company showed the system in use on a production line, simultaneously inspecting (but not displaying) three different parts of a cosmetic product.

Manufacturing automation was also the theme of the Raytheon booth, where Robert Kienlen, program manager, showed the company’s series 2000B IR camera interfaced to the NI 1409 PC-based frame grabber from National Instruments (NI; Austin, TX, USA; www.ni.com). Under control of NI’s Vision Builder software, Kienlen showed the camera inspecting levels of liquid in opaque bottles of pharmaceutical products, in real time, as they progressed along a conveyor belt.

Perhaps the most important part of this year’s show was not the system demonstrations, the new product introductions, or the technical seminars. It was the enthusiasm of the attendees to encompass automated manufacturing in their production lines.

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