Sunday, September 18, 2011

An argument for in-house machine vision expertise

A vision system is not like a machine tool. Sure, there’s a frame or structure and often there’s motion, but whereas a machine is engineered to be robust, machine vision is like a delicate child that needs frequent care.

The issue is that vision systems, much like some of our young, are very sensitive to changes. The biggest headaches often come from subtle variations in the object being inspected – a switch in paper vendor can result in different reflections and an altered image, to give just one example – though small shifts in the operating environment can be just as troublesome. Imagine what will happen when a conveyor belt is changed for an “improved” version, or perhaps as dust builds up on a fixture (not a food industry example, obviously!)

If there’s no in-house vision expert able to trot out onto the factory floor and nurse the system, what happens? Well it means a call to the vision system distributor or integrator and a production stoppage until they can visit.

But wait,” you cry, “Why not connect over the internet?”

Well that’s a great idea but even if your IT group allows outside parties access to your network, it doesn’t always work in practice. How will they refocus a lens that was accidentally knocked during a 5S cleaning exercise? How will they spot that the ink on the label is a slightly different shade of blue?

Sometimes there’s just no substitute for being there. So either you ensure your support is close at hand, or you brace yourself for extended downtime while the tech books a flight, or you have people on site who can troubleshoot these problems.

I prefer the latter, but it’s your factory so it’s up to you.


Brian Durand said...

There is a recent discussion in the Linked In Machine Vision Group regarding local vs remote integrators. Many people argue that Internet access, where someone across the world can view images and tweak parameters, is sufficient. But I agree with you -- if you don't have people in-house that can support your vision systems, it is best to work with a local partner that can get on site quickly.

Michael Riehn said...

Great article and discussion. The questions you raise are very important for people to consider.

Thank you,

M. Riehn