With an ever increasing number of machine vision and automated inspection systems becoming available in the market, the end user is confronted with a difficult task of evaluating the various offerings.
The online automated inspection systems can generally be split into two broad categories; Smart cameras and Personal Computer based cameras.
A smart camera is a camera that has the image processing hardware and software built into the camera itself whereas a PC based solution uses a separate camera to capture the image and then a personal computer is used to analyse the image and generate the output results.
The number of different cameras available for use with a PC far out number the number of smart cameras on the market.
If one compares these two groups of cameras it can easily be seen why the PC based solutions are far superior to the smart camera inspection systems.
Overall size – Smart cameras are larger and more bulky than compact PC based cameras. This can often be an issue when integrating the camera into manufacturing equipment where space is often limited.
Range of cameras available – PC based cameras is available from a large number of different manufacturers. This has resulted in a wide range of different camera resolutions, camera shapes and designs and camera capabilities being available.
The number of manufacturers offering smart cameras is significantly less and hence the range of products available is limited. In order for a machine vision integration company to be able to offer proper technical solution for a particular project, they need to be able to select the suitable optimal hardware. Hence the choices available using a PC based solution give much more flexibility and a better end result.
Database and statistical display capabilities – Many customers using automated inspection systems, require some form of statistical data to show how the inspection system is operating.
Smart camera systems are only able to store limited historical data and hence are really poor performers in this area. In many cases an additional PC is required to be connected to the smart camera to store and display the statistical information.
The PC based solution can however be fully customised to meet the end users requirements with regards to storage and display of statistical data.
User interfaces – Many customers prefer to have a customised user interface developed for their particular application. This allows the system to be more easily integrated into their existing production line.
Smart cameras usually do not offer a flexible user interface whereas a PC solution can be tailored in any way. It is simply a matter of software development. With the significant advances made in touch screen technology, the user interfaces are now significantly more robust with IP67 ratings now cost effective.
PC on the production floor – Historically manufacturers have been reluctant to have PC’s on the production line. This has come from the familiarity with PLC based system controls and a general distrust of PC’s.
The modern manufacturing environment is changing significantly with a much higher usage of PC’s being common. The smart camera solution has the advantage that there is no PC on the line and may be better suited to some production line environments.
Modern touch screens and panel PC’s are robust and well used in the rough manufacturing environments.
System cost – Generally smart camera systems are more expensive than PC based solutions. This is often difficult to assess and compare because the PC based systems offer a much larger range of functions and features.
If one compares a simple automatic inspection application or an application where a number of cameras are used together then the PC based solution is significantly lower cost.
A wide range of automated inspection smart cameras and PC based cameras are available from Azitech .