The Evolution of LEDs and their Role in Machine Vision

Tradeshow Talks with Smart Vision Lights
AZoOptics speaks to Smart Vision Lights at Vision 2018 about the evolution of LEDs and their role in machine vision.

Who are Smart Vision Lights and what do you do?

Smart Vision Lights was founded twelve years ago by Matt Pinter. Matt came from an engineering background and had previous experience selling machine vision. This and his fascination with the illumination component of machine vision applications led to the formation of Smart Vision Lights.

Initially, the business started out of in Matt’s garage and has now grown to employ over thirty people. Manufacturing is done in the United States in Muskegon, Michigan with the company expanding into a new facility in 2019

Within machine vision, there are multiple components that contribute to solving machine vision applications, and Smart Vision Lights focus primarily on the lighting side. The first aspect of machine vision is camera technology. Sensors need to be manufactured, as well as a camera to capture the image.

The second part of machine vision equation is the software applications that perform the automated the inspection routines. The camera takes a picture, which then gets sent to a software program. Sometimes this program runs on a PC external to the camera. Alternatively, intelligence can be built into the camera, in which case it is called a smart camera.

The third key component, which some people argue is the most important component of machine vision application, is the lighting technology. This is how we play into the machine vision space - we provide our customers with the illumination technology to capture the right types of defects within a part or process with their camera.

Machine vision inspection is used across many industries in many applications which require different parts and different components. Most of these applications require some type of specialty lighting to pull out various defects within a part when it is inspected.

Smart Vision Lights works with camera companies, software companies and companies that integrate these components into a solution.

How do you fit into the Machine Vision field?

Machine vision technology has been around for about decades, and in this time cameras, software components, and lighting technologies have signifactlyevolved. Most of our technology is based upon LED type lighting, which has been the prominent illumination technology used in machine vision applications in recent years. However, there are other technologies people use for eliminating parts in order to carry out inspections.

Our products come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors. This is done intentionally because no two applications are the same. We need to adapt our product to the customer’s needs.                                                                                                                  

For example, you may have one customer using a machine vision application to inspect a very small component on a cell phone. Many of those components have to be inspected for factors like quality or tolerance. Small lighting products are required to fit within very small spaces in order to enable that type of inspection.

We also have some very large products, for example, backlights that are typically used to inspect larger things when looking at a silhouette. If a part is laid on top of the backlight surface, a silhouette of the particular part will be produced.

Machine vision lighting comes in many sizes and forms in order to provide the right type of products for customers to bring into the market.

How have the LEDs have evolved in the last 30 years?

The LEDs have become the standard over the last 15 or 20 years. LEDs have provided us with the cost-effective means to deliver a lot of illumination in a relatively small form factor. We are able to put LEDs directly on the printed circuit boards to drive out costs and make manufacturing easier.

The LED technology continues to become one such that the life of the LEDs is much longer than traditional means of providing illumination to machine vision application, so you have lights that can last for a long time.

In fact, we offer a ten-year warranty on our products. The life of the product is typically very important to customers, and it is part of the quality we promise.

LED technology has evolved to be a very stable technology, providing high-quality illumination and very intense, bright illumination at a price point that makes it easy for companies like us to deliver solutions to the market. Innovation in LED’s is happening at a very fast pace due to adotion of this technology in home, auto and municipal applications

What are the emerging industries that have become more aware of what you?

There are a lot of industries that use machine vision inspection. We’ve seen significant growth in  automotive, food and beverage, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), Logistics, Pharma/Medical and then there are industries in the electronics manufacturing and assembly space. There has never been a better time for machine vision inspection and automation in general.

Companies are always trying to evolve and deliver higher quality products to the market. There is a heightened need to bring new products to the market sooner and there are many regulations in different markets that require products to be at a certain quality threshold in order to be passed on to the public.

Between these  industries, the growth has been fairly consistent in terms of companies investing in machine vision inspection. This growth has come about for a lot of reasons. One is that it's very cost-effective. Another is that it is highly repeatable.

If a human inspects something, they can miss things due to not paying attention, perhaps as a result of being tired at the end of the shift. The machine vision systems do not take breaks - they can work 24/7 at extremely high levels of accuracy.

As mentioned, ee have  seen solid  growth in logistics, primarily driven through eCommerce. Large eCommerce companies ship millionsof packages a day. The most efficient means of tracking those within a fulfillment centeris to use camera-based systems, either to inspect labels or to read barcodes on boxes in order to provide information to logistic systems that route one box from one location to the next.

Many companies are using machine vision technology or camera technology to allow these types of processes to be more efficient and ultimately faster. With any type of camera technology you need some type of illumination to get an image for the camera to capture, and so our lights need to be combined with a camera in order to read bar codes on boxes as an example for this application. This industry is growing very fast and we have not seen any slow-down in terms of the adoption of our products within the industry.

There continues to be significant investment in machine vision technology within the electronics manufacturing space. The number of things manufactured by these industries every year is huge. Every single component of each device has to be inspected somehow: the glass, the enclosure, the circuit boards, the optics, and so on.

There are a lot of things in these products that need some type of quality check. Our lighting technology enables the machine vision piece of these applications to actually build solutions for this type of inspection.

For more information on this source, please visit Smart Vision Lights.

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