Cognex (www.cognex.com) is making a breakthrough in embedded vision systems that support programmable logic controllers (PLC) and human-machine interface (HMI) industrial protocols.
Nowadays, if the manufacturing system of the customer has a Rockwell PLC, then the vision system must talk to it, said Rick Roszkowski, the company’s senior director of vision systems marketing, adding that this ability to communicate is becoming a customer expectation.
“To meet it, we’re building tools within the smart camera, as well as including the ActiveX control software component for integration into third-party HMI systems,” said Roszkowski. “The demand for extending software features and tools to help quickly integrate vision into the industrial environment is becoming as important as the demand for new vision tools to solve a particular application. Most companies don’t have the time, and often not the expertise, to create a program that makes all those devices exchange data easily and quickly.”
Samantha Frost, product marketing specialist at Cognex, said OEMs look first for the ease of development and then integrate vision into other factory systems. “This means connecting to major factory communication protocols such as PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, and Modbus TCP, as well as interfacing with HMI programs,” said Frost.
Looking ahead, the company plans to give more pixels and more horsepower to its vision system products so they can handle data more accurately. “We want to make smart cameras and vision systems smarter, and make them play well with the rest of the factory,” she said. “So, we expect to provide more powerful application-building tools that require little or no operator input to set up the machine to accomplish the vision task.”
Kamalina Srikant, vision product manager at National Instruments, said embedded vision systems are utilized in scientific contexts including failure analysis labs and R&D, and industrial applications. The application’s complexity in industrial environments does not come from image-processing requirements but from the synchronization and the need to integrate vision system with other industrial systems such as control systems, robots, and PLCs, to handle the inspection results. Customers want a wider range of industrial communications options. “For example, you might need to ensure that your vision system uses a certain protocol to talk to one of the more expensive industrial robots on your line,” said Srikant. New Embedded Vision System models from NI are the first vision systems to support Ethernet for Control Automation Technology or Ethernet-based fieldbus system EtherCAT, also called deterministic Ethernet.