Lighting and illumination suppliers must keep up with camera advances to ensure the appropriate choices are available to systems integrators and end users. The variety of options help customers address the myriad challenges that exist for specifying proper illumination. Camera technology moves fast, and lighting and illumination providers work to keep pace with these developments. They also have various tools they can offer to help systems integrators and other end users ensure they specify the proper lighting for their applications—as early in the process as possible.
“Lighting components and their selection and integration play a crucial role in any vision system: good lighting, together with other vision components such as the camera and lens, is required to achieve the best possible results from your vision system,” says Emi Noffz-Eguchi, Product Market Manager, Companion Products at Basler AG (Ahrensburg, Germany; www.baslerweb.com). “Faulty lighting cannot be compensated for by any other component. Therefore, lighting components must offer quality, reliability, and long-term availability with a good price-performance ratio.”
One tool in the toolbox for illumination providers is to provide testing services when a customer is in the specification stage. For example, Lindsey Dragan, Application Manager, CCS America (Woburn, MA, USA; www.ccsamerica.com), says, “One of our key tools is our testing service for both area scan (visible and SWIR) and line scan applications. Customers send us their samples and application conditions, and we evaluate which light is best for their application. This includes not only our LED lights for precision and flood lighting, but also other types of light sources like LED light source boxes, laser diodes, and halogen. Each test is summarized in a report detailing what solution gave the optimal image, the required setup for that image (including controller, camera, lens, working distance, etc.), other lights that were tested, and the reason they were not the correct choice.”
Opto Engineering (Mantova, Italy; www.opto-e.com) offers feasibility studies performed by its experts directly on customer samples in its labs. “Customers can send test parts and describe their vision challenge, and Opto Engineering will perform tests and find the best illumination solution for their vision applications,” says Massimo Castelletti, Head of Marketing and Product Manager for Lighting. “Opto Engineering’s technical team has years of experience and can easily test a wide range of illumination solutions in laboratories located in Italy (Mantova), Germany (Munich), the United States (Houston), and China (Shanghai) and select the best light for the application.”
Takashi Shinozaki, manager, Sales Promotion Department, VS Technology (Tokyo, Japan; vst.co.jp/en), says the company has a testing room with many demonstration units of industrial cameras, lenses, and lighting. “If you bring your inspection object (workpiece) to our testing room, our staff with lighting selection skills will be able to select the most appropriate lighting, camera, and lens, discuss installation conditions, and acquire images,” he says. “If you are a distant customer, you can send us your object (workpiece), and we can provide you with an experimental report of image acquisition.” He continues, “Selecting the best lighting requires a lot of work, information, and lighting knowledge, and we think it is difficult to put all these conditions into a tool such as the Web-based selecting tool, so we currently believe that the best way to examine this is by an engineer who has knowledge of lighting selection.”
According to Borja Anuzita, product manager, DCM Sistemes (Valencia, Spain; www.dcmsistemes.com), the company offers a color test lamp as a tool to determine the most suitable wavelength. It also offers its laboratory as a free tool as well as its free equipment loan program. The company allows its customers to test its products free of charge for 15 days before purchase to confirm that they are the appropriate lighting solutions for their applications.
Advanced illumination (Rochester, VT, USA; www.advancedillumination.com) has two programs available to customers for evaluating lighting solutions. First, it offers a Loaner Evaluation Program that allows customers to borrow an inventoried product for a 30-day period, free of charge. “This lets our customers test a light in their inspection environment before they make a purchase,” says John E. Thrailkill, Co-Founder and CEO. “In many cases, we find that using a ‘try before you buy’ model provides our customers with the most effective way of determining a solution for their applications.”
Second, it offers a Sample Evaluation Program. This program allows customers to send the company a part for evaluation by an application engineer, who will work one on one with customers to find a lighting solution that best fits their inspection needs at no extra cost.
At Metaphase Technologies (Bristol, PA, USA; www.metaphase-tech.com), Mark Kolvites, Senior Technical Sales Manager, says, “Selecting the correct illuminator requires complete understanding of the application including, but not limited to, identifying the features of interest in the inspection, the objective of the overall automated inspection, the conditions/environment for light (i.e. washdown or high dust), light’s positional information (how close/far the light can be from the object under inspection), camera and lens resolution and depth of focus, the inspected part’s positional repeatability and movement speed, etc. One of the tools we provide customers is a complete ‘Light Analysis’ application questionnaire to make sure none of these important requirements/conditions mentioned are overlooked and are considered when selecting LED illumination. In addition to the light analysis document, we have a program where machine vison users can send us sample parts to test and determine optimal illumination as well as visit us with parts to assist in the testing the parts firsthand.” Metaphase has LED illuminator design engineers on staff but also experienced application engineers that act as an experienced consultant tool to advise not only on illumination but also on all aspects of a typical machine vision application. Metaphase also has a large library of sample application images but also example diagrams that illustrate how a particular shaped illuminator interacts with the object under inspection.
Steve Kinney, Director of Training, Compliance, & Technical Solutions, Smart Vision Lights (North Shores, MI, USA; www.smartvisionlights.com), comments, “Proper illumination remains one of the most critical, but often overlooked, components to the success of a machine vision application. Customers often select a common ring or bar light, illuminate the subject matter, and deploy the application by simply trying to do the rest by software vision tools. However, the selection of proper illumination products and lighting geometry can emphasize or deemphasize key features that determine the success and robustness of the deployment.” To address these points, Kinney explains Smart Vision Lights consulting support tools available to customers. “SVL offers free consulting with our expert application engineers, including the use of our state-of-the-art demonstration lab. The lab is virtually connected for remote requests where the customer cannot physically visit our site. The application engineer can consult live with the customer on a smart application bench. From the bench, the user can see three views: live through the camera lens to see the end result with their sample and SVL proposed lighting; an overview shot of the bench where the customer can see the complete setup showing the lighting, camera, sample, and physical orientation and distances; and a live chat with the application engineer helping them to give a more personal feel to the session.”