Thursday, May 14, 2009

Inexpensive machine vision – if you need a lot of it

There’s an interesting post by Ned Lecky in Vision & Sensors magazine, April 29, 2009 on the subject of using Linux and the OpenCV library from Intel to put together an almost free vision system. (If you don’t want to follow the link, let me summarize: you can get all the software you need for free, all you need buy is the PC and camera.)

I can’t argue with what Ned says, but I think we should remember that development time is not free. Programming a system the way Ned suggests is going to take time, so if you’re aiming to solve a one-off problem you’ll probably do better to go with an off-the-shelf smart camera. (Did anyone ever get fired for buying Cognex?)

However, if you’re lucky enough to have an application that needs multiple copies – and I’m guessing the breakeven point is more than a dozen – then Linux/OpenCV might be the way to go.

By the way, I titled this post “inexpensive machine vision,” to avoid suggesting that it’s cheap. “Cheap” would imply that was inferior and I’m certainly not going to suggest that. The OpenCV library from Intel is very impressive and you’re in the business of developing vision products you should certainly check it out.

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