Currently, industry news is utterly humming with stimulating updates on machine vision developments from across the globe.

Eagle-Eyed Computers: Machine Vision and Optical Components

Article from | Knight Optical

As well as remarkable technological releases, thought-provoking conferences are also airing that are bringing the brightest minds together to unearth the technical details behind today’s innovations, enhance present standards and reveal the future of this unique area of technology.

In this blog, Knight Optical – the leading supplier of on-spec, metrology-tested optical components for a variety of industries (including machinery vision) – looks at some of the inspiring conversations and most significant breakthroughs that are happening in the field right now.  

Quality Rules the Roost for Machine Vision 

July 2022 saw the beginning of the anticipated Vision Spectra Conference, where digital innovators from leading brands from deep within the computerised vision world gathered to converse about the latest from the sphere. During the many thought-provoking, technologically-advanced subjects covered, one golden thread ran through almost every topic of conversation – quality.

For example, in his presentation, 'Human-Like Vision for Pick-and-Place Robotics', Raman Sharma from Zivid, a leader in machinery vision cameras and software, explained why striving for the best quality is essential when aiming for a high-performing end application, such as picking-and-placing robots.

Additionally, when opting for optical components for these high-spec, forward-thinking robotic vision systems, Raman's ethos applies more than ever. 

 

Correcting Blurred Vision

Putting into perspective just how many hurdles mechanical vision devices must jump over – such as detecting objects of various sizes and shapes; not to mention the different materials with, often challenging, surfaces – Raman also described some of the additional everyday complexities that are encountered when using 3D cameras for robotic-picking applications. 

Amongst these impediments are environments, temperatures, and other elements, such as avoiding dirt and dust ingress/vision obstacles.

It's also worth noting that most of these systems are employed in demanding industrial environments to pick and place anything from small, shiny fixings to large, metallic cumbersome elements, demonstrating the utmost importance of unparalleled visualisation in these applications. 

When working with manufacturers of computerised vision devices, we find that this is a shared concern for most designers, engineers, and specifiers of optical components. As the mechanical organ of sight that ultimately enables robotic systems to carry out their primary objectives, cameras must feature clear and unhindered viewing, regardless of the interferences posed within these systems' environments. 

When faced with these all-too-common challenges, many customers turn to our portfolio of optical coatings to enable their application to stand up to conditions such as temperature variations, low impact blows, and ingress/blocked viewing from vapours/water and/or oils.

Our range includes:

  • Anti-Fog
  • Oleophobic 
  • Hydrophobic 
  • Anti-Reflective
  • Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC)
  • Plus, more. 

Click here to view our full range of optical coatings. 

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What Industries Use Machine Vision?

Now that we’ve covered some challenges and remedies concerning the quality of these systems, let’s look at a couple of the sectors that make use of machine vision systems. We've mentioned the use of these systems in the industrial sector. Raman uses car manufacturing as a prime example – but there are many other fields that can make use of its many benefits. Just two of them include:

 

Pharmaceuticals 

With a recent pandemic and now reports of a monkeypox outbreak, the need for Pharmaceuticals has been in demand throughout the world, and machinery vision – commonly found in the quality control and packaging departments – can make fulfilment quicker and more efficient than ever.

As Daniel Dombach, Director of Industry Solutions, EMEA, Zebra Technologies, explains in his article for MHW Magazine, computerised vision is beneficial in these environments thanks to automation. With elements like foreign contaminants and specific temperatures to adhere to as well as a whole host of other compliance matters to consider, there's a strong case for further adoption of the system in the pharma market.

"Our eyes often deceive us, even when we're diligently inspecting something," explains Daniel. He goes on to mention that: "...Machine vision technology was previously discounted by manufacturers. But these systems have advanced considerably, with powerful, intuitive toolsets and scalable software platforms powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms." 

Read more about Daniel's case for machinery vision in pharma here

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Harvesting 

We've heard much about robotic vision systems assessing the quality of food in a factory/warehouse environment, but what about the prospect of putting it into practice when out and about in the fields in which all this produce is grown?

Over in Santa Maria, California, a small group of robots operating around a different kind of strawberry field are proving that robotic vision can be applied for onsite agricultural work – all with a modern-day alteration to the way berries are produced. 

Furthermore, the robots, made by Tortuga AgTech, use these vision systems to identify ripe berries that are grown on hydroponic tabletops. Equipped with an articulated arm and a snipper-grabber, these helpful robots are “on their way to picking nearly as many berries as human pickers" by snipping, collecting and even repositioning unripe produce for “a better angle”.

Learn more about these new berry pickers here.

 

The Future of Machine Vision 

With more developments set to be released in other sectors and further advancements to be made in its usual industries (such as automotive and industrial fields), machine vision is ready to soar in the coming years.

What's more, with brand-new dedicated trade shows, such as the newly-announced Automatica – which is to be co-located with every optics aficionado's favourite event LASER World of PHOTONICS next year – and VISION, which is taking place this year, we're bound to see more breakthroughs released imminently. 

One such innovation is by Neuroscience Professor and Science Hub Investigator, Ted Adelson, who is exploring the concept of robots that 'feel by sight'. An expert in machine vision, Ted plans to develop the already-established company GelSight "with added capabilities to sense temperature and vibrations". Learn more about Ted's work here

As a go-to supplier of high-spec, custom-made optical components for many working in the game-changing realm of robotic vision, we're enthusiastic to see what this next generation of technology will deliver and look forward to working with brand-new sectors that will switch onto the ever-evolving benefits of these systems. 

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Why Choose Knight Optical for your Application? 

Discerning customers rely on Knight Optical not only for the premium quality of our output and in-house state-of-the-art Metrology Laboratory and QA Department's capabilities but because – as well as a range of Stock Optics (available for next-day dispatch) – we also offer our optics as Custom-Made Components

With over three decades of experience under our belt and a whole host of long-standing, world-renowned customers on our books, we are proud to have worked on some of the most ground-breaking innovations. 

If you are looking for premium-quality, bespoke optical components, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Technical Sales Team here.  

 
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow
Knight Optical (USA) LLC

Knight Optical (USA) LLC

We are a trusted leading global figure in the production and distribution of scientific, stock and custom precision optics with over 30 years' experience providing optical solutions for a huge range of instrumentation in most industrial and research sectors, building strong reliable relationships. Our team supplies customized precision optical components in UV-VIS-NIR materials. No product is released to the customer until it has been examined in our advanced metrology laboratory.

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