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What Are Vision Inspection Systems

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quality control team working with inspection machine

Quality control is essential for many industries, including production and manufacturing lines. Consider a vision inspection system if you need reliable detection solutions to ensure defective products don’t make it into your distribution center. Sometimes called machine vision systems, vision inspection systems use image acquisition to automate product sorting, quality inspection, and more.

This article will explain vision systems, and provide you with all the information you need to determine whether this inspection solution is right for your industry application. We’ll also discuss choosing the best camera for your vision system to ensure you make the proper investment.

What Are Vision Inspection Systems?

Vision systems monitor products through production lines to ensure each meets the assigned parameters. They provide defect detection to ensure consistent and high-quality products, and can also be used for other applications like product measurement, guiding robotic manufacturing, and sorting products by color or shape.

Automated vision inspection systems help eliminate human error in production and manufacturing lines, and as camera technology has continued to improve, we’ve seen more integration throughout many industries.

How Does a Vision Inspection System Detect Contaminants or Defects?

In the production industry, a vision system uses specially selected cameras to record images of products as they move through a production line. A complete vision system includes the following components combined:

  • Camera
  • Lens
  • Light source
  • Interface
  • Computer
  • Software

As products move (usually on conveyor belts) through vision inspection systems, cameras record and analyze images to determine whether the products meet the set parameters. Vision systems can measure, sort, and inspect objects at high speeds for convenient defect detection and quality verification.

Applications of Vision Inspection Systems

canned food product on conveyor of inspection machine

Many industries use vision inspection systems to inspect products, including the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, industrial applications, medical imaging, and even traffic monitoring. You might invest in a vision system for quality verification and inspections, whether in the food or clothing industry.

One of these systems can help you detect defective products, improve efficiency at your facility, and identify weak points in the manufacturing line to maximize your ROI.

Benefits of Using Machine Vision Inspection Systems

Inspection automation through vision inspection solutions provides many benefits, including:

Consistent quality control: Manual employee inspection introduces opportunities for human error due to fatigue and complacency. Vision systems provide highly accurate information consistently, eliminating human error through automation.

Improved brand reputation: When a brand must recall a product due to inconsistencies and defects, its reputation suffers. You can improve your brand’s reputation by ensuring a consistent product through a vision inspection solution.

Reduced costs: Adding vision systems to your manufacturing line can help reduce waste costs as automated inspection results in fewer defective products making it to distribution.

Improved productivity: Automating product quality inspection reduces the need for manual quality control and allows you and your employees to focus on other tasks.

Discover how a machine vision system can help with your inspections by contacting the inspection system experts at TDI Packsys. Our years of experience and expertise in inspection and providing packaging automation solutions can help you determine which inspection system and features suit your specific needs.

Camera Selection for Your Vision Inspection System

supervisor selecting camera setting for vision inspection system

Vision inspection systems can’t function optimally without the proper camera technology. Let’s review the primary components you must consider to ensure your vision system camera facilitates an efficient and accurate inspection process.

Acquisition Type

Cameras for vision systems function using one of two acquisition types, referring to how the camera records the light information for the image:

Line scan: A line-scan camera acquires an image line by line and puts it together to form the complete image.

Area scan: An area-scan camera acquires the entire image in one go.

Your application helps you determine which acquisition type will prove most suitable. For example, you may choose a line-scan camera to check a cloth product for tears and other surface defects, or an area-scan camera to ensure consistent sizes and shapes of your products.

High-speed manufacturing lines tend to benefit more from line-scan acquisition because area-scan images may appear blurry at faster speeds.

Interface

Vision inspection systems use interfaces to extract images from the camera onto a computer. Smart cameras (also called intelligent cameras) have the hardware and software to process images internally, while other cameras require external hardware for image processing.

The most common interface used in vision inspection systems is GigE (Gigabit Ethernet USB 3.0) because it allows the use of a cable up to 100 yards long with no image loss from the camera to the hardware.

Resolution

Many believe more resolution means a better-quality image, but the opposite is true if you have more resolution than the application requires. Sometimes, machine vision systems fail because of too much resolution. This requires more processing than necessary and degrades the performance of advanced computations.

Too much resolution also affects the signal-to-noise ratio by creating more noise in the image. Extra noise makes it more difficult for the software to process the image and causes false rejections.

To choose the proper resolution for your application, determine the smallest feature size you want to detect, ideally with three to four pixels representing that feature.

Frame Rate

female worker adjusting the frame rate of food inspection machine

A camera’s frame rate refers to the number of lines (line scan) or images (area scan) the camera can capture in one second. Higher frame rates allow for high speeds during the inspection process, but high-speed cameras tend to cost more. Choosing the best cameras for vision systems requires balancing the production speed with the camera’s cost.

Shutter Type

A camera shutter opens and closes to allow light from a camera lens. This light information (in the form of photons) gets converted into electronic information (in the form of electrons) via the image sensor. Cameras convert this electronic information into pixels, and the shutter determines when each pixel gets activated.

When using a global shutter camera, all pixels activate simultaneously in an area-scan acquisition. In contrast, a rolling shutter activates pixels one row at a time in a line-scan acquisition.

Sensor Size

Although many of us associate high-quality imagery with high resolutions, sensor size may affect image quality more than the resolution measurement. The bigger the camera’s sensor, the more light information it can absorb for clearer, more detailed images.

Cameras with larger sensors often have higher costs, so you’ll want to balance your desired image quality for your vision systems with the cost of the camera.

Quantum Efficiency

Ideally, a camera could convert the light information into electronic information at a ratio of 1 to 1 (i.e., one photon to one electron). However, no camera can achieve such unadulterated efficiency. Therefore, you must consider quantum efficiency when selecting the right camera.

A camera’s peak quantum efficiency depends on the light wavelength. For example, sensors tend to convert red light very efficiently, so this type of light is common in image acquisition. For optimal quantum efficiency, you must tailor your camera choice to the wavelength of light used in the application.

Tips on Selecting the Right Vision System for Your Products

food inspector checking the product on a automated conveyor machine

If you’re looking for inspection solutions with vision capabilities to improve efficiency or get more accurate inspection results, vision inspection systems may provide the quality control automation you need. Whether you need image acquisition for a robot controller, want to ensure your products are free of surface scratches or other defects, or need each product to match an exact measurement, keep these tips in mind when choosing your vision inspection system:

  • Identify the points of waste on your manufacturing line.
  • Identify the components and features that determine your product’s quality.
  • Consider the most appropriate points in the line where you might include vision systems.
  • Weigh the cost of replacing manual inspectors with an automated vision system.
  • Get expert advice on how best to integrate systems for multiple inspections at your facility.

If you’re ready to automate your quality control system, the inspection system professionals at TDI Packsys can help with the planning and integration of any new vision system.

Find the Ideal Vision Inspection System for Your Application

Choose TDI Packsys to handle your vision inspection system for quality verification. We’ll help you choose the best system for your manufacturing, industrial, or other applications, whether you need defect detection for food, manufactured products, or any other type of inspection. We provide our customers with unmatched after-sale support that includes comprehensive services to ensure the integration of your new automation system goes smoothly.

We offer a wide variety of vision inspection systems, including automation systems for bottles, labels, cans, opaque products, and more. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll leverage our expertise and ability to help you find your facility’s best vision system solution. You can contact us using our online form or by dialing 877-834-6750.

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