IDS Imaginghas released its new contrast-based autofocus features in the popular LE board level cameras. These additions take advantage of standard liquid lenses from Varioptic with resolutions up to 18 megapixels. The uEye software now comes with an intuitive GUI with adjustable regions of interest and various image sharpness measurement algorithms.
As much as “Auto focus” seems like it would be the flip of a switch, its important to understand the various methods used in the image analysis. In order to focus an image, algorithms are needed to measure image sharpness which is relayed to the liquid lens to make adjustments. These methods as based on principles in measuring edge sharpness to analyzing histogram values of the pixel grey scales.
Measuring image sharpness additionally has various algorithms which which can be run providing more exact methods versus basic analysis. It is important to understand these methods as additional processing power is required, effecting the overall camera frame rate.
IDS Imaging has a “Tech Tip”which covers various auto focus methods, defines the characteristics of search algorithms and how they effect speed and provides application examples. Click the icon below to download.
A great question and maybe you can, but what ARE the differences?
Basically, there are just a few questions you need to answer to see if you should use a webcam for you machine vision application which are as follows:
Do you need to program to integrate the video into an application with processing or control?
Do you need consistent image quality?
Are you doing computer vision (the computer is making decisions based on the images) or are you just viewing the images visually?
Do you care if the camera specifications change over your product’s life cycle?
Is the object under inspection moving?
Do you need to control when you take the picture or interface to a trigger or strobe?
Do you need to be able to choose what lens you will need?
If the answer to any of the above are YES, then a webcam will NOT work well or at all for your application. If the answers are NO, then by all means, you might be able to save money and just use a webcam. (You can stop reading here if you want, or continue for more details below).
Machine Vision Camera Software
Webcams do NOT come with a SDK as they are made to show video only. They normally provide a universal video driver, and also an application for viewing video.
Webcams have rolling shutter sensors which mean they cannot acquire images of moving objects without ‘smearing’ them. Industrial machine vision cameras use sensors with global shutters providing the ability to freeze the image to produce non smeared images of moving objects.
Trigger and Strobe Control
Webcams only have an interface to the USB data, whereas industrial machine vision cameras have hardware and software inputs and outputs. These allow for exact timing for a trigger to take a picture and a strobe to illuminate the object.
Camera Specs Changing over time
Webcams just need to show you video! In turn the manufacturers are not concerned if the sensors inside the camera change every six months. Whether the sensitivity changes by 10% makes no difference when you are just video conferencing with Grandma.
Industrial machine vision cameras are made with image sensors that don’t go obsolete every 6 months, but rather companies hope for 10 year life spans. It makes a huge difference if you are doing a computer vision algorithm that you have 5 man years of software development and the sensor’s sensitivity changes by even 1%.
Furthermore, the form factor of webcams change frequently as well. This doesn’t make a difference when it is just on your desk. It makes a huge difference when your camera and lens is fixtured in a machine that has 500 hours of CAD work to design, much less build. Moving the camera and lens 10cm might not be possible!
Do you need to choose your lens?
Webcams come with an integrated lens that is suitable for general viewing, and this lens is integrated with the camera and not changeable. Industrial machine vision cameras come with no lenses as not only do lenses come in a variety of focal lengths for different magnification, but also lenses coming in a variety of resolutions. Choosing a lens requires you to know the size of the sensor, your working distance, your field of view, and the pixel size. (See related educational blogs on lenses at end of this post)
What are your options for a low cost camera solution?
If you need industrial machine vision camera solutions with a solid SDK, long life cycles, at a low price, there several solutions to consider. Rolling shutter imagers are always lower price which are always a place to start along with USB2 interfaces. Read our previous blog HERE which outlines some specific models which are low cost. There is also a great new platform coming providing 5 Megapixel resolution with a rolling shutter imager, but with great performance for $280! Contact us for more details.
10 GigE Vision compliant cameras are easy to integrate enabling more machine vision applications and image processing. Camera image sensors have continued to increase in resolution which requires higher bandwidth interfaces to achieve high frame rates. 10 GigE cameras are a great solution as implementation is less costly and complex versus camera link and CoaxPress.
Aside from the features of 10GiGE Vision, the Baumer VLXT series cameras are extremely feature rich and cost competitive making them an excellent choice for 10GigE Vision cameras.
11 Key Features are listed below with many being unique, solving more vision applications in 10 GigE Vision cameras
1 – True 10GigE bandwidth! – 2 – Liquid lens & Canon EF mount control 3 – Exposure times down to 1uS with Sony Sensors 4 – Power outputs (4x) for direct driving LED lights eliminating a lighting controller. 5 – IP67 Ratings and extended temperatures for harsh environments 6 – IEEE 1588 Precision Timing protocols for synchronized timing with multiple devices. 7 – Long cable lengths up to 55 meters (Cat 6) and 70+ meters with Cat 6a / 7 and longer with optional fiber optic interface. 8 – Standard low cost 10GigE NIC’s can be used opposed to some manufacturers requiring special NICs 9 – Fully GigE Vision compliant for easy implementation with the benefits of high bandwidths. Allows support of third party software libraries. 10 – RS232 support 11 – On board JPEG compression available
Machine Vision standards have evolved providing defined models of how industrial cameras communicate to a PC allowing easier implementation of machine vision technology. Vision systems can be made up of cameras, frame grabbers and vision libraries from various manufacturers. The vision standards provides compatibility between the various manufacturers for easy implementation.
Machine vision applications require some basic tasks of finding and connecting to the cameras, configuring parameters, acquiring images and dealing with events to and from the cameras.
In order to provide cameras from various manufacturers to work together with 3rd party software and hardware from other manufacturers and provide the tasks above, a standard must be followed. “GenICam” is the basis for this standardization, providing compatibility using a Generic Transportation layer and Generic Application programming interface. These are referred to as “GenTL” and “GenAPI” respectively. GenTL provides the communication layer and GenAPI enables camera features to be configured by analyzing a compliant XML file for the camera.
Camera manufacturers however provide unique independent features providing various advantages from one to another. Creating these unique features blur the lines of the standard, not always making a camera fully compatible with another manufacturers software. For example, an industrial camera may use the GenTL layer to be recognized but may have special features making it unique as well.