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Choosing the right industrial camera for Industry 4.0

Choosing the right industrial camera for Industry 4.0
Machine vision systems and industrial cameras can be deployed in any number of applications, ranging from manufacturing to medicine to traffic monitoring even to security.
Machine vision systems and industrial cameras can be deployed in any number of applications, ranging from manufacturing to medicine to traffic monitoring even to security.

One application in which industrial cameras play a particularly important role in is the optimization and automatic monitoring of production processes, according to Eva Tischendorf, Team Leader for Communications at Basler. “Industrial cameras are tasked with gathering, storing and archiving important information so that users or software can make decisions that would be unfeasible without that visual data.”

For example, with the assistance of industrial cameras, machine vision systems can measure and count products, calculate their weight or volume, and inspect goods at top speed with respect to their predefined characteristics. They can also automatically extract limited but crucial information from huge quantities of data, or they help experts interpret images by filtering, optimizing and supplementing the latter, or by facilitating quick retrieval and availability thereof, she explained. “They work tirelessly and neutrally, and perform consistently.”

General Specs for Industrial Cameras
Industrial cameras generally consist of two basic components — the image sensor and the digital data transmission interface. However, these are not the only two things to consider. In fact, determining the aforementioned is only the beginning.

“The first question is whether one needs an area scan camera or a line scan camera and if it needs to be monochrome or color,” Tischendorf said. “Users then need to decide on the resolution (MP), speed (fps), sensor technology (CCD or CMOS), sensor technique (rolling or global shutter), the interface (USB 3.0, GigE, or CameraLink), the housing, and which features the cameras should have.”

Area scan cameras are more general purpose than line scan cameras. Setup and alignment is easier and they grant more flexibility. In terms of resolution, they provide a fixed resolution that makes installation simpler in environments where moving cameras or objects aren’t practical or desired. These types of cameras are best for applications in which the object is stationary, even if only momentarily.

On the other hand, line scan cameras contain a single row of pixels that allow them to capture data quickly and provide higher resolution images. A complete image of the object moving past the camera can be reconstructed in software, line by line. These types of cameras are best for fast-moving conveyor belt applications and other high-speed processing.

But what about the resolution and fps? While different needs will yield different requirements, some experts believe that industrial cameras should have at least a video format of more than 640 x 480 pixel resolution at 30 fps.

When comparing sensor technology, the trend is heading toward CMOS being the future. Sony, the world’s largest CCD sensor maker announced last year that it would stop manufacturing CCDs in 2017 and focus on CMOS technology. That does not mean, however, that CCDs are outdated. Depending on the application or need, CCDs could be the better option.

The question of interface is another that offers many different choices. Deciding which to use means considering the bandwidth requirements of the application.

IIoT, Industry 4.0 and Beyond
Nowadays, all verticals and industries are turning to smart technology. In fact, IndustryArc’s recent report stated an increased penetration of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) into various industry verticals has helped drive the growth of machine vision cameras, particularly for enhancing process efficiency by significantly reducing human intervention.

There is also Industry 4.0 — a term originating from the German government’s promotion of the computerization of the manufacturing industry.

“Industry 4.0 stands for new process forms and organization of industrial production. The core element is networking and extensive data communication,” Tischendorf said. “The goal is self-organized, more strongly customized, and efficient production based on comprehensive data collection and effective exchange of information.” According to Basler, image processing will become a key element of Industry 4.0. While a direct link to how these two concepts will affect the development of industrial cameras is not quite clear, what is clear is that they will drive growth.
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