Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beautiful on the inside

There are some advantages to not using a PC for your machine vision system. First off, there’s no need to worry about virus protection, and neither are you going to find the folks from IT downloading “helpful” patches when you weren’t expecting them. Then there’s boot up and shut down: a Windows OS takes forever to perform these tasks while a system like the Keyence CV5502 is ready to go just twelve seconds after applying power.

How do I know it needs twelve seconds? I timed it. (A friend loaned me his unit over the recent holiday.) And a rather sweet unit it is too. While I might not have fallen head-over-heels for the gawky black box, I must admit to a growing fondness.

With all the cable and I/O connections located on the front, plus two SD slots, the CV5502 is not the prettiest vision system I’ve ever seen – I think the IRIS GT from Matrox would win that prize - but it sure is functional.

Programming is by means of a hand-held “console” that has a neat magnet in the rear – ideal for snapping on to the aluminum extrusion used for guarding every production machine in the world. OK, that’s a little unkind because it really is a joy to use. Navigation is by a 4-way button with the other controls clearly marked below. In the past I’ve been critical of “Gameboy” style controls, but after a couple of hours with this unit I’ve experienced a conversion.

The CV5502 I got to play with had only a single camera, although the standard system accepts two and is expandable to four. One downside of Keyence machine vision is that everything is proprietary: you don’t get to select the make and model of camera you use. Having said that, they offer color and monochrome from 0.32 Mp all the way up to 5Mp, so it’s hard to imagine being short of options.

Well that’s the hardware, but what could I make it do? I’m afraid you’ll have to check back soon for that.

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