Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Equipping your vision bench

Let’s start with the assumption that you can spend $5,000. What should you buy?

I suggest the following:

VGA (640 x 480) resolution monochrome Firewire A camera. Something from The Imaging Source would work well. Budget $550 and don’t forget to get a camera mount.

A Firewire A card for your laptop or PC. Expect to pay less than $100. PC cards can be found for under $20.

A range of lenses. Don’t skimp here, you need 8mm, 12mm, 16mm, 25mm and 35mm. Be sure to get glass optics, rather than the cheaper plastic, (glass lenses are heavier,) and go with locking screws on focus and iris. In addition, a 50mm lens will act somewhat like a telecentric lens, so if you can afford it, get one of those too. These will set you back close on $1,500. Edmund Optics offer a good range, or go to Tamron and ask for a local distributor.

Lighting: The most basic setup needs a backlight and a ring light. Try Advanced Illumination for a range of products and budget on spending $1,500.

You should also buy some hardware to mount and position the camera and lights. Edmund Optics have a good range, or you can go to Optosigma. Figure on getting a breadboard, a range of mounting posts, and some angle brackets or clamps. What you spend is up to you but you might like to budget on $1,200.

That’s almost all your $5,000 spent and you’ve no software. Not to worry, there are some low or no cost options. If you plan on working with DVT cameras, download and install the Framework software from the Cognex website. (You’ll need to run it in ‘emulator’ mode.) Another option is RoboRealm. Alternatively, if you want to explore more image processing options, try ImageJ. And lastly, don’t discount PaintShop Pro. You can quite a lot of filtering and thresholding with it, as well as using it to prepare some ‘defect’ images to test your inspection program on.

So there you have it, the $5,000 vision test bench. But what if you don’t have $5,000? Well check back tomorrow for some more ideas.

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