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What is Machine Vision?

Unlike computer vision which is mainly focused on machine-based image processing, machine vision integrates image capture systems with digital input/output devices and computer networks to provide real time quality control and for general control of manufacturing equipment such as robots. Manufacturers favour machine vision systems for visual inspections that require high-speed, high-magnification, 24-hour operation, and/or repeatability of measurements.

A typical machine vision system will be part of an automated production process consisting of the following components: 

  • One or more digital cameras (monochrome or color) with suitable optics for acquiring images, such as lenses to focus the desired field of view onto the image sensor and suitable, often very specialized, light sources. 
  • A synchronizing sensor for part detection (often an optical or magnetic sensor) to trigger image acquisition and processing and some form of actuators to sort, route or reject defective parts 
  • A computer program to process images, detect, measure, compare etc in order to confirm a quality criteria has been met or to provide type verification or robot control to another control system. 
  • Input/Output hardware (e.g. digital I/O) or communication links (e.g. Industrial Ethernet, ProfiBUS etc) to report results and to automatically reject components. 

"Intelligent" or "smart" cameras combine the above functionality into a single unit providing a self-contained vision system solution, though normally with less power and functionality of a PC based vision system solution.