Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Making an IMPACT

A few days ago I suggested that the IMPACT package from PPT might be an alternative for DVT aficionados to consider, but I cautioned that I had no hands-on experience. Well Gary Kocken, Sales Director for PPT, very kindly got in touch and helped me download the product for evaluation. As you probably know, it takes time to learn the capabilities of a machine vision software package, so rather than write one long review, it’s my intention to share my experiences step-by-step as I dig in.

Today I’ll just address some first impressions. Number one is that at over 100MB, this is a big download. For comparison, last time I downloaded Framework it was around 45MB. If size correlates with capability, this bodes well for IMPACT.

Installation went smoothly, although as I don’t have a PPT camera I’m running in “emulator” mode and didn’t get to deal with the usual IP address hangups common to most “smart” cameras. The download includes a 372 page manual but no “Quick Start Guide.” This is a pity because, like most engineers, I don’t bother reading manuals; I’m a learning-by-doing kind of guy.

The first surprise after launching the Vision Program Manager (VPM) program was that there’s no conventional “Windows” menu along the top left of the screen. Instead you see a row of icons. However, the graphics are fairly self-explanatory and a “mouse-over” pops up a tag that says what each icon does.

Below the icons are three tabs, “Design,” “Display,” and “Utilities.” “Design” is where you do your application development, “Display” is the emulator that let’s you cycle through a set of file images, (I imagine that if I had a camera connected I’d see a live image here,) and “Utilities” gives you camera control functions, (including calibration,) and is also where you go to load in a set of images from file.

That’s about as far as I’ve got for now. So far my impressions are favorable. The package doesn’t quite have iPod levels of intuitive-ness, but it’s pretty good, definitely better than a spreadsheet and I think it would be pretty easy for a Framework or Intellect user to make the transition without too much pain.

Over the coming days I’ll explore the range of image processing and machine vision tools and will try to develop a simple application. Eventually, I intend to dig in to the programming capabilities, which is where the comparison with DVT’s scripting capabilities should get interesting.

Check back often!

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