Multiple-head camera system targets machine vision

Many of today's industrial machine-vision systems require a large number of cameras to be deployed, synchronized, and controlled from PC-based systems.

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Many of today's industrial machine-vision systems require a large number of cameras to be deployed, synchronized, and controlled from PC-based systems. To develop such high-performance imaging systems, systems integrators are turning to Camera Link-based cameras and their associated frame grabbers. However, because each camera may need to be linked to individual frame-grabber boards, the cost of developing the machine-vision component may be high.

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Redlake MegaPlus II cameras use a proprietary interface that can be coupled to a camera-controller board to support up to four high-resolution cameras.
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To reduce this cost, Redlake (San Diego, CA, USA; www.redlake.com) has introduced a Camera Link-compatible controller that can interface to four of the company's new MegaPlus II Series of cameras, while providing Base, Medium, and Full Camera Link compatibility to external frame grabbers. All of these cameras feature proprietary outputs that allow the serial- and control-line data from up to four independent MegaPlus II cameras to be interfaced to the Camera Link controller. Because each camera has a unique IP address recognized by the firmware resident in the camera controller, user setup is simplified.

When fully set up, the camera controller supports up to four cameras in several configurations. To access data from the cameras, the controller features Camera Link Base and Medium ports and independent FireWire, DVI, RS232, and triggering options. When using the DVI port, images of up to 1280 × 1024 pixels can be transmitted over distances of up to 500 ft.

Connecting the RS232 interface to a host PC allows firmware to be uploaded into the camera controller when required. Using Redlake PC-based control software, gain, gamma correction, and camera parameters such as triggers can be set remotely. From this PC, firmware upgrades such as color, flat field, and Bayer correction can be uploaded to the controller.

A typical configuration using two 4-Mpixel camera heads with a single camera controller consists of two 15-frame/s MegaPlus II ES 4020 12-bit monochrome camera heads, one MegaPlus II controller, and a 64-bit frame grabber operating in dual Base mode. In operation, the synchronized camera heads can be up to 10 m from the controller.

Such camera configurations are best supported with a 64-bit Camera Link frame grabber such as the Phoenix from Active Silicon (Uxbridge, UK; www.activesilicon.co.uk) or X64 from Coreco Imaging (St. Laurent, QC, Canada; www.imaging.com). The camera unit has also been tested with Grablink Expert 2 from Euresys (Angleur, Belgium; www.euresys.com) and the R64 from Bitflow (Woburn, MA, USA; www.bitflow.com).

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