Machine Vision Applications: An Introduction

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canned food products on conveyor belt at food factory

Have you ever wondered how manufacturers put out consistent products with virtually no variability? Vision machines are the answer. This technological marvel can reject flawed products, classify objects, and identify quality control issues, all with zero human intervention.

Below, learn about a few vision machine applications in the food, medical, and logistics industries.

What Is a Vision Machine and Why Is It Important Across Industries?

A vision machine is kind of like a superhero with x-ray vision powers. Such a system can hone in on product flaws, identify objects, push rejects off the assembly line, and so much more.

If you could hire an employee with 100% picture-perfect accuracy, you’d almost certainly bring them on board. Sadly, even the most diligent employees aren’t right all of the time, and they can’t catch every little thing. That’s why it’s critical to employ a vision machine if quality control is your top concern.

Vision machines aren’t just for the food industry. Any industry that cares about accuracy, speed, and product quality can benefit from vision machine technology.

Common Applications of Vision Machines

What, exactly, do vision machines do? Let’s explore a few vision machine applications next.

Quality Control and Inspection

Let’s say you run a line that sorts apples. What would happen if you sent a bunch of bruised or rotting apples to grocery stores? You’d make customers angry and would probably lose your contracts with those stores.

Vision machines can find flaws in foods and products that the average human worker would miss. As each item passes down the line, the system looks at it up close. In just seconds, it can identify flaws and push defective items off the line.

Object Recognition and Classification

Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture that you had to assemble yourself? The furniture probably came with a little bag of screws and bolts, sometimes dozens of them. How does the furniture manufacturer make sure that they include the correct number of parts in each box?

Vision machines are the answer. Thanks to high-speed object detection learning algorithms, these systems can identify objects on the production line and sort them into categories. A system might have separate categories for different types of screws, for instance. The system can also count objects to ensure that each product gets the right amount.

Robotics and Automated Guidance

In manufacturing, the proper placement of parts is critical. Just imagine a car that wasn’t put together correctly on the assembly line. That car may not run, or worse, a key part could fail and cause an accident.

Vision machines employ automated guidance and robotics to put products together correctly. These image processing systems can also identify the best placement of objects on pallets, which can help businesses maximize space.

How Does Vision Inspection Impact the Agriculture and Food Industries?

factory worker checking apples

The agriculture and food industries commonly use vision inspection, and both would be in a world of trouble without it. Vision machines keep defective food products out of the supply chain, thus safeguarding the health of consumers.

Check out some vision machine applications for the agriculture and food industries below.

Crop Monitoring and Management

If you’ve got a home garden, it’s easy enough to spot nutrient-sucking aphids and pluck hungry slugs off of your plants by hand. Industrial farms, though, are on a whole other level. Some of them have hundreds of acres filled with crops, and they simply can’t spare the manpower needed to inspect each row of produce for defects.

Vision machine systems eliminate the burden of crop monitoring and management. These systems scan crops for problems, such as pests and diseases, and alert employees, who can then remedy any issues.

Sorting and Grading of Agricultural Products

Steak lovers know that this delectable cut of meat comes in three grades: Select, Choice, and Prime. How do meat processing plants determine a cut’s grade?

Many use a combination of highly trained human inspectors and vision machine systems. Workers run meat through the vision machine, which looks for patterns such as meat age and marbling (streaks of fat in the meat). Employees then assign the meat a grade based on the system’s findings.

Food Safety Inspection

What do you suppose would happen if plastic or metal pieces ended up in a food product? Not only could that food seriously hurt consumers, but it could also be costly for the manufacturer.

That’s exactly what happened to a major chicken product manufacturer in 2023. The company was forced to recall 30,000 pounds of chicken nuggets after consumers complained of finding metal shards in the meat.

Vision machine systems can eliminate expensive errors like this one. They can detect metal, plastic, bone fragments, and other foreign objects with ease.

Can Vision Machines Be Used for Medical Applications?

doctors looking at patients x ray

Vision machine systems aren’t just for the food industry. They have applications in the medical industry as well.

Diagnostic Imaging Technologies

Medical professionals are trained to spot anomalies in MRIs, x-rays, and other diagnostic scans, but even they miss problems sometimes. Vision machine systems can hone in on issues that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Image-Guided Surgery

Vision machine systems can guide surgeons as they perform their delicate work. These systems can show the area on which a surgeon is operating in real-time.

Analysis of Medical Images for Diagnosis

Does that patient have cancer or Alzheimer’s disease? It can be tough to tell at first glance. Vision machine systems can help doctors make accurate diagnoses.

What Are the Applications of Vision Machines in Transportation and Logistics?

worker sorting packages in distribution center

The transportation and logistics industries can take advantage of vision machines as well. Here’s how.

Traffic Management Systems

Have you ever spent five minutes waiting at a red light, even though there were no other cars around? That light probably ran on a timer rather than relying on a vision machine.

Traffic lights equipped with vision machines can detect when cars are stopped and waiting to go. They can switch lights from green to red, and vice-versa, to manage the flow of traffic.

Automated Vehicle Inspection

Manual vehicle inspections can take hours, and there’s always a risk of a human inspector missing a major problem. Neither is an issue with vision machines, which can detect problems such as faulty brakes and low fluid levels.

Package Sorting and Tracking

You’ve just ordered the latest gadget, and now you’re eagerly waiting for the package to show up in the mail. You impatiently check the tracking several times a day to see if the package has gotten any closer to your address. But how, exactly, does package tracking work? Vision machines are the answer.

Transportation companies use vision machines to sort packages by size, weight, and address. Vision machines also help consumers track their packages along their journey through the mail. Each time a vision machine program scans a package, it updates the package’s location in the mail system.

Challenges Associated With Implementing Vision Machine Systems

Vision machine systems may sound like the perfect solution, but implementing them isn’t without challenges. Below are a few challenges you must consider before you buy a vision machine.

Complexity of Integration

Vision machine systems are high-tech pieces of equipment. Before integrating one with your current setup, you’ll have to make sure that all of the pieces play together nicely. This can be quite challenging, especially if your manufacturing line includes legacy technology.

Variability in Environmental Conditions

Do you run a manufacturing line that requires cold or hot temperatures? Select your vision machine carefully. Not all are designed to withstand below-zero temperatures or extreme heat.

Companies that process harsh chemicals or corrosive materials must take care in selecting a vision machine, too. They must choose a vision machine that won’t falter in such an extreme environment.

Data Quality and Variability

Some vision machine systems provide better and more accurate data than others. If you require extremely accurate data, you’ll need to choose a vision machine that’s highly sensitive.

Good vision machines should also come with robust analytics. They should automatically compile reports on anomalies and store that data in a safe, tamper-proof location, such as the cloud.

Complexity of Object Recognition

Does your manufacturing line process simple objects, such as potatoes, or more complicated objects, such as tiny parts? The complexity of the objects you need to scan dictates the type of vision machine you must buy.

Do you want your vision machine to sort objects for you? It sure beats sorting items by hand, but not all vision machines can do this. Ensure that a vision machine has sorting capabilities before you buy.

Learn More About Our Vision Machine Systems

Whether you work in logistics, the food industry, or the medical field, there’s a vision machine system for you. TDI Packsys offers robust vision machines, as well as x-ray inspection systems, color sorters, and food metal detectors.

To learn more about vision machine applications or any of our products, call TDI Packsys at (877) 834-6750.

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