Around the world, factories are gradually replacing workers with machines in keeping with the Industry 4.0 trend, and the “eye” of the machine has become more important than ever to “see” problems. In this regard machine vision plays an important role, and cutting-edge solutions were displayed at the Smart Factory zone in Secutech 2017.
One company, Basler, displayed a series of hardware including cameras and lenses that can be used for a variety of operations, for example product inspection. “The human eye is very limited. Some defects are too small and minute to be detected by human workers. This is where machine vision can play a part,” said Herman Lee, Key Account Manager at Basler. “For example, smart devices have become lighter and thinner, and their parts and component have become proportionately smaller. Placing them on the handset or examining whether there are defects on them requires the kind of precision and exactness that human eyes can’t achieve.”
Besides inspection, machine vision can also be used for navigation purposes. Taiwan-based LIPS, for example, offers 3D depth cameras that can help direct automatic guidance vehicles (AGVs), which are increasingly deployed in factories.
“Our 3D depth cameras can direct AGVs away from obstacles and determine the position of the vehicle so it knows where it is and where it’s going next,” said Rebecca Chang, Sales Account Director at LIPS. “Before, you need to build tracks for these vehicles, and now with the 3D depth imaging technology you no longer have to do that. Meanwhile, other solutions providers offer LIDARs for navigation, but they are way more expensive than what we are offering.”
LIPS cameras also play a key part in pick-and-place operations where a robotic arm picks something from one station and places it on another. With LIPS cameras in place, the robotic arm can pick something up based on its dimensions and exact location. “A 3D depth camera offers more exact details of an object, and this is something that typical RGB cameras can’t do,” Chang said.
The two companies export their products to the rest of the world including North America and EMEA, but they are both optimistic about the prospects of Asia.
“We do business throughout the world but Asia is our biggest market,” said Lee. “It’s the manufacturing powerhouse of the world and has got a lot of factories in it.”
“We sell to U.S., Canada, Germany, and get lots of requests from Brazil, South Africa and India,” Chang said. “But Asia represents a huge market where the 3D depth imaging technology has yet to be explored. The region’s growth potential isn’t to be ignored.”