Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Easy setup, thanks to Keyence

Dialing in the lens, by which I mean setting aperture and focus, can be one of the hardest tasks for an engineer or tech with little to no vision experience. Banner tried to help some years back with their focus number indicator and an auto exposure tool, but now Keyence have gone one better with their IV series of vision sensors.

I wrote about this sensor back in February 2012, (“Vision sensors from Keyence”) but it was only today that I finally got to work with one. And what a great impression it made!

Setup is really straightforward, thanks to a stylus-operated touchscreen and a menu that walks the user through each step of the process. An auto brightness function sets the exposure, and auto-focus does the same for the lens. Both can be overridden if you don’t like the results, but I would think they’d be fine for the routine presence-absence type jobs this product is aimed at. I should also mention that I thought the image quality was really good.

Only two image analysis tools were available on the sensor I was using: Outline and Area. Outline is essentially a pattern-matching tool that learns a shape and compares the acquired image to this master. Area is similar but really just counts pixels that meet a specified criteria. Not a lot of options, but probably enough. There is also a location tool that finds a shape and relocates the inspection tools to deal with variation in part position.

I didn’t get a lot of time to test the performance of the tools, but they seemed to run both fast and reliably. I should also mention that interfacing with a PLC was a breeze too.

Overall, the IV vision sensor is extremely intuitive. I especially like the auto-focus, which makes it possible for someone with little vision experience to get a simple application up and running in minutes. How do I know this? Because I watched the shop electrician do it after receiving just a few minutes of explanation.

When I first wrote about this Keyence sensor a commenter asked how it compared to the Cognex Checker. Now I have some experience I can answer: I like the Checker, but for ease of use, image quality, and performance, the IV wins.

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