Vision system not only for large companies
For a long time, the use of vision systems in industry has been the domain of large corporations. Due to the cost of complete vision systems, their complexity and the expenses associated with the development of appropriate image processing algorithms, only large manufacturers could afford to use them in their daily operations. For some time, however, the market has been changing the trend and there are more and more vision systems emerging in many smaller production or service companies.
Industry 4.0 for the benefit of small business budgets
The current stage of industry development and its automation is referred to as Industry 4.0. One of the main changes that can be seen – compared to the previous industrial models – is the greater share of distributed automation systems in industrial plants. Control systems, sensors, and entire systems become more distributed and intelligent. The number of systems used to measure and describe the conditions of components in production systems is growing at a very fast pace. Vision systems fit very well into the philosophy of this industry. Solutions available on the market today are becoming more and more compact. The performance of vision systems is also improving – their price, when used in simple systems, is also dropping. All of these opens many possibilities in using vision systems in thousands of applications in which they were previously excluded due to the price and level of their complexity.
Raspberry Pi, smart cameras and miniaturization
Reducing the costs of implementing vision systems is associated with the maturity of several technologies on the market. One of the key is the appearance of a wide range of single-board computers, such as the most-known Raspberry Pi. These computers allow the implementation of vision systems that do not require large computing capabilities without significant financial expenditure on the implementation of expensive data processing units. The progressive miniaturization of integrated circuits has also allowed the development of integrated vision systems, so-called smart cameras. These are devices that in one housing combine a camera, an illuminator, a computational unit responsible for image processing and application logic, and various industrial interfaces responsible for communication with the outside world. Today, every major manufacturer of industrial cameras on the market has in its portfolio smart cameras adapted to a wide range of applications.
Artificial intelligence in the vision systems – for small businesses
An additional aspect increasing the potential of vision systems is the dynamic development of artificial intelligence algorithms in recent years. On the one hand, the theory related to machine learning, deep learning and other techniques and algorithms of artificial intelligence has made a giant step forward, allowing anyone to properly design the image processing algorithm without much effort associated with a specific industrial application. Ready-made software packages are available on the marked, such as Adaptive Vision Studio or the OpenCV library, commonly used by companies dealing with the development of tailor-made systems, allowing for easy and quick analysis of specific applications, implementation of machine learning algorithms and integration of the whole system. Parallel to the development of software, there is a dynamic development of hardware platforms supporting the operation of machine-learning systems. Dedicated systems for implementing neural networks based on technologies evolved from graphic accelerators are becoming cheaper and cheaper. A good example is the Nvidia family of Jetson devices available on the market, which encloses powerful computing power in a small and affordable package.
Positive future forecasts
Today, due to dynamic development, vision systems find a wide range of industrial applications regardless of the size of enterprise in which they are implemented. The most classic and the most common type of application is measuring the presence and mutual position of elements in manufactured piece. This type of application, along with the dimensional and shape control still represents the largest share in the market of industrial vision applications. The development of technology allows reducing the cost of their implementation and time of that process. Increasingly complex applications related to the control of production process, quality assurance, whether in industrial or agri-food production are becoming increasingly popular in connection with the development of AI methods.
The progress that has been made in the field of vision systems has allowed them to expand their capabilities, reduce costs and implementation time. Today entrepreneurs when making a decision to buy a vision system, no longer have to decide on expenses significantly burdening the entire company budget. Thanks to this, vision systems are becoming increasingly popular. Smaller companies, seeing the benefits of them, are more likely to invers in their purchase. Saying it simple: vision systems for SMEs are not science-fiction anymore.
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