Smart cameras and vision sensors

Robot vision with 3D smart camera
(Courtesy Alrad Imaging)

Robot vision with 3D smart camera (Courtesy Alrad Imaging)

Smart cameras

With their on-board image capture and processing capabilities, smart cameras avoid the need to transmit large quantities of image data back to a remote PC for processing and analysis. The results of the inspection are made on board and sent to a PLC over industry standard connections such as Ethernet. The ability to pack more speed and processing power into smaller chip sizes has enabled more intelligence to be embedded into the smart cameras. Not only that, but use is also being made of multiple processing technologies such as DSP, CPU and FPGA for algorithm, communication and control optimisation. Smart cameras have benefited from the recent developments in CMOS sensor technology with the result that there is an enormous choice on the market with an impressive range of resolutions, size and weight. Smart cameras are available with different levels of embedded software ranging from simple code reading to the most sophisticated imaging toolkits. Camera configuration is carried out via a simple user interface – often a web browser or a user development interface. Smart cameras offer a comprehensive range of capabilities including:

  • Positioning – guide robot handlers or adjust vision tools for part measurement
  • Identification – for verification or traceability
  • Verification – verifying parts for correctness assembly or packaging
  • Measurements – for dimensional accuracy
  • Flaw detection checking surfaces for defects

Smart cameras are single point inspection systems so where there are multiple inspection points in a process, it may be more most-effective to consider using a compact vision system.

3D Smart cameras

Perhaps the most striking evidence of development in smart camera technology has been the emergence of 3D smart cameras. Up until comparatively recently, the computationally intensive requirements of 3D measurements to acquire images, create 3D point clouds and make measurements was only possible using a PC. However, the developments in processor technology means that this is also now possible using processors housed in the camera itself, and these 3D smart cameras can be used to make the appropriate measurements in production line environments in the same way as 2D smart cameras.

Vision sensor (Courtesy Cognex)

Vision sensor (Courtesy Cognex)

Smart vision sensors

Smart vision sensors are low cost imagers, often with integrated light sources, which can perform simple tasks such as identifying the orientation, shape and position of objects and features. They can also inspect for assembly errors, defects, damaged parts and missing features. Embedded vision tools can provide part locating, feature finding, counting and measuring capabilities. The built-in intelligence can allow these tools to be combined and used numerous times to solve simple or complex inspection tasks.


UKIVA members can offer further advice Embedded Vision Technology.