Consumer cameras have been appealing for some industrial imaging applications because of their good quality to price ratio. High-end photography cameras previously had other advantages for certain applications such as automatic adjustments for changing lighting conditions and advanced color processing. For instance with red-light violation traffic applications, DSLR cameras are frequently used.
Industrial vision applications use optically detected images to provide information for process control, decision-making or object characterization. The key distinction here is the image serves as data rather than just for viewing.
“Machine vision, or the application of computer-based image analysis and interpretation, is a technology that has demonstrated it can contribute significantly to improving the productivity and quality of manufacturing operations in virtually every industry. In some industries (semiconductors, electronics, automotives), many products can not be produced without machine vision as an integral technology on production lines.”
With advances in machine vision components, such as increased resolution, and lower prices, more applications can now take advantage of the other benefits of machine vision cameras such as higher frame rates, more robust design, longer life span and life cycle management, accurate timing, and thorough technical support.
Consumer photography cameras have very good image quality but for still images. With the current technology, machine vision cameras are getting closer in image quality but doing this at high speeds. For instance, the Adimec TMX6-DHD offers crisp full color images at 30 or even 60 fps.
While consumer cameras are well made to withstand basic wear and tear, they are not designed and manufactured to perform in more harsh environments such as extreme temperatures, 24/7 operation or the shock and vibration when mounted on a vehicle.
The sales structure for consumer cameras is for a one time buy by the end user and therefore there is no consideration for the life cycle of the system of the customer. There is no control in firmware and hardware, which of course can create a variety of problems for system builders. Along with this, the suppliers of SLR cameras do not have the structure to provide continuous technical support as is required for the design-in process.
Here is a nice article looking into the true costs of using a consumer camera for microscopy imaging:
Advantages of machine vision cameras over consumer cameras for industrial applications:
- High resolution and high frame rates
- Robust design to withstand industrial and even more extreme environmental conditions
- Better reliability (longer life span)
- Hardware and firmware controls to support end system life cycles
- Precise data tracking and timing
- Detailed technical support
As we have discussed, machine vision has entered the mainstream now.