B&R is the first automation provider to fully integrate machine vision into its automation system. Product manager Andreas Waldl explains why so many machine builders are speechless the first time they learn what is possible with the new solution.
Andreas Waldl: I would describe the first reaction as reserved curiosity. What they can see immediately is the opportunity to reduce the variety of different systems in their application. Having a single source not only for controls, motion and safety – but now machine vision as well – saves them considerable work and valuable resources.
Waldl: Because they tend to be stuck in a rut with the way they think about their projects. Many times, they want to jump right into talking about specific components and technical specifications – that's when I ask them to take a step back and begin by describing a typical application. Then, I'm able to explain what would be possible with our vision solution – at which point I often find them blinking in disbelief.
Waldl: What we're doing is completely new in the field of machine vision. At first, it can be hard to imagine what it means in practical terms to have machine vision fully integrated in the automation system. Over the course of the conversation, it begins to dawn on them just what a significant leap forward this really is.
Waldl:The complete integration gives us an unprecedented level of synchronization. We're able to time the lighting and image capture with sub-microsecond precision. Lighting, camera, drives, controller – everything's talking on the same network and running from the same application. That means you're able synchronize control loops and view comprehensive diagnostics in real time. In fact, the integration makes us so fast that we can accomplish things with our standard hardware what would otherwise require highly specialized high-speed cameras.
Waldl: We don't have a high-speed camera – and in fact it's only the rarest of cases where our customers actually need something that specialized. The secret is all in the integration. With our exceptional synchronization and high-intensity LEDs, we're able to freeze a razor sharp image of an extremely fast-moving object at a very precise moment with a short pulse of light – and then immediately process it with sophisticated algorithms. And it doesn't matter if you're using the LEDs integrated in the camera or an external lighting component.
Waldl: A certain B&R customer from the food and beverage industry was so impressed by the performance that they have begun phasing out their obscenely expensive high-speed cameras in favor of our machine vision solution – at a fraction of the cost. This was a perfect example of the type of conversation I described earlier. The customer started out a little skeptical. But then, they began to realize that they could ignore all their preconceived notions about what machine vision can and can't do, and simply focus on developing an optimal machine process. That's what happens when you integrate machine vision into the automation system: instead of being a design constraint, it becomes a powerful tool that opens up previously unimaginable possibilities in machine development.