Cognex sees vision systems in wider applications
Natick, MA—Popularity of low-end vision sensors is one of the reasons for overall growth in application of vision technologies, reported several Cognex representatives in a recent interview with Control Engineering.
Natick, MA— Popularity of low-end vision sensors is one of the reasons for overall growth in application of vision technologies, reported several Cognex representatives in a recent interview with Control Engineering .
At Cognex's offices here, George F. Blackwell, director of product marketing, and Carl W. Gerst III, product marketing manager, said that, as people realize the benefits of low-end vision sensors, they're likely to notice other applications where vision makes sense. With more processing power and an easier software/setup learning curve, it's easier than ever to apply the technology. "Within a half day, customers can do what took our experts a day or two, just a few years ago," explains Mr. Gerst. "In-Sight, for instance, is designed for factory vision applications and includes all of the vision tools, I/O, and communications required for the end-user to integrate the system." With higher-end systems, applications engineers are required to ensure the technologies are properly applied.
Mr. Blackwell says, "Some customers are on their second or third generation of the technology. Most upgrades involve adding more inspections or accommodating higher line speeds with higher-performance vision engines." In cases where vision platforms have changed, Mr. Blackwell says, support is available to translate older application programs.
Customers learn about their processes while using machine vision, says Mr. Gerst. "We're working with customers who use the products and document benefits and often buy more. A lot of times we can make someone a hero by solving a major problem."
System integrators have really warmed up to using the In-Sight vision sensor, they note. Integrators see a real advantage in solving easier application problem with In-Sight, while retaining the Cognex PC-based systems for more complex projects. Overall, In-Sight orders have grown 40% in 2002. The line will have been out three years in March 2003, and it has been the most successful Cognex product launch ever, they report, with a "large percentage" of new customers originating from the In-Sight product line.
Performance increases come from hardware and software developments. New hardware platforms in 2002 accounted for large speed increases in the product line. Developments continue on the core software, such as new algorithms for recognition, which have increased speed about 15% over the previous version.
Customers needs drive current and future product developments. These include the need for less maintenance and adjustment, more intelligence, intuitiveness in set-up and use, robustness, reliability, lower cost over the lifecycle, as well as communications to I/O and PLCs. Mr. Gerst adds, "The core technology has to work reliably. If it doesn't, you don't get the next sale."
Today, Cognex has a team of direct sales and application engineers doing evaluations and demos. Mr. Blackwell, says, "Quality isn't just at the end of the line anymore, but throughout the process. A vision system is always alert, always watching and without subjectivity, which is especially important for applications with liability, such as automotive, aerospace, and pharmaceuticals. Also, with greater business connections to the plant floor, there's more need for tracking work in process, general productivity, and higher line speeds. In many applications, you just cannot have a manual inspection process."
For more on vision solutions, see Cognex at www.cognex.com. For more about vision, see August 2002 cover story at www.controleng.com/issues .
Also, watch for the April 2003 isssue of Control Engineering for a
Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief