An application-ready imaging solution

10 October 2011

Günther Dumsky, director of Systems and Boards at Kontron discusses the reasons for, and results of, a cooperation agreement between Kontron and Stemmer Imaging to produce application-ready, configured and tested imaging servers.

Industrial imaging describes a system's capability for analysing products according to certain test criteria by using one or more cameras. Typical areas of deployment are surface inspection of roll goods such as textiles, foils or sheet metal; verification of product feature presence; component measurement and character and barcode recognition. Even the position detection of products is an important application area and a pre-condition for modern pick and place applications, where the position of products, which have been randomly placed on a conveyor system, needs to be detected and the coordinates transmitted to the pick and place robot at fast speeds.

The application areas and the range of tasks that imaging solutions carry out are as varied as the production components they have to optically analyse and so the level of individualisation for the specific imaging solutions is high. For the individual application customisation, a range of imaging components are available. A wide range of different monochrome, colour or thermal photo camera systems – which can be combined in different scalable quantities and different resolutions – are available and can be combined with a range of optics and light systems for incident and transmitted light.

The x86 ecosystem
Industrial PCs based on x86 technology take on the task of processing the data delivered from the camera systems. Camera data can be transmitted either by image cards or – without additional components – directly via FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet technology. The scalability and modularity of processor performance and memory capacity are further benefits of these flexible technology and make it attractive for a heterogeneous application spectrum.

Intelligent software components
The best hardware, however, is only ever as good as the software which it runs and which can fully exploit the hardware's potential. On the software front, employing ready-made components in the form of imaging libraries offers an approach which keeps development effort low, minimising time-to-market. Application engineers can pick from a variety of specialised software components. These libraries offer pre-fabricated algorithms that can, for example, execute pre-processing and colour processing as well as pattern recognition and surface inspection of objects. For 3D imaging there are also libraries which transform camera data into three dimensional object models.

As imaging software choices become wider and the number of components become greater, a growing number of customers are now demanding suppliers who can provide overall responsibility for a system, offering support in the choice of an optimal solution and troubleshooting in the event of any problems occurring.

Unfortunately, most imaging system solution suppliers are not specialists in industrial servers, which is often what is needed to fully exploit the potential of the latest, most highly integrated processor technology.

Kontron and Stemmer Imaging joined forces at the end of 2010 to provide individually configured imaging platforms with the hardware and the software from one source, designed with the latest processor technology as well as hardware-optimized algorithms.

The first evaluation system
The first fruits of this cooperation is an application-ready, pre-configured industrial imaging system for industrial imaging tasks such as quality control of piece or bulk goods or for roll goods.

The application-ready imaging platform from Stemmer Imaging and Kontron is based on the robust and silent 19in industrial server family Kontron KISS 4U. The industrial server comes equipped with the Common Vision Blox imaging software from Stemmer Imaging, which enables the efficient development of imaging applications.

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