Vision System Game Changers: COTS and Open Source

Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) camera sensors combined with open source software are being adapted to achieve the level of performance most would expect from an industry vision system but at a much lower cost. These advancements have dramatically shifted the playing field, opening up opportunities for nearly any OEM in any industry to improve equipment design, device control, and operational outcomes.

EmbedTek has leveraged cameras as optical sensors and data collectors, not just for their image capture function. Take a laser-based object counter, for example. Our manufacturer partner needed to improve an existing technology used to identify, count, and verify a variety of highly regulated objects as they are dispensed. We developed a sophisticated environment combining mechanical, electrical, and software engineering skillsets to achieve a next-generation system for them.

High-Speed Counter
An OEM’s existing object counter relied on the interruption of a laser beam to identify when an object was present to be counted. This forced the operator to hand-feed the objects into the machine and required one object to interrupt the laser beam at a time in order to be counted accurately. If two objects interrupt the laser beam at the same time, they would be counted as one.

A vision system immediately came to mind as a solution to increase speed, but the variability in size, shape, and rotation of the objects as they fell would compromise accuracy. The EmbedTek team used COTS camera sensors and components, open source software, and a few rounds of trial and error to design and optimize an entirely new environment inside of the counter. Transitioning to a camera sensor allowed not only counting the objects but also identifying and storing visual evidence of what was dispensed.

The process starts with an area for the operator to fill the counter, and then a feed mechanism manages the speed at which the objects are dropped through. The feed mechanism also triggers a motion-activated camera and lighting system. Polarization filters and strobe lighting synchronize with the camera frame speed to ensure brightness and clarity, which is necessary in order to distinguish objects as they present in a wide variety of ways. Once the image is captured, the software interprets the image and algorithms eliminate inaccuracies.

Our customer can now provide their customers who rely on quick, accurate, and verified counting with a solution that not only ensures quality but can record each counting session in the case they ever need to audit inventory or production processes. The vision system and specialized lighting environment make a next-generation technology possible without compromising manufacturing costs or drastically increasing the end-user investment.

Better, faster, cheaper vision systems. They are possible. EmbedTek helps OEMs leverage and embed superior technology for truly differentiated products.

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