Machine Vision Meets Industry 4.0

With industry transitioning to Industry 4.0 and the 4th industrial revolution five questions were asked to Dr. Heiko Frohn, Chief Technology Officer, VITRONIC GmbH, a world leader in industrial machine vision. In 2017, the VITRONIC Group generated total revenue of more than 172 million euros.

Industry 4.0 and its specific fields of applications are some of the main topics on the minds of engineers today. What role does machine vision play in all of this?

We are seeing that, in addition to the trend of digital factories, there is a growing appetite for process expertise and quality data. This is why machine vision has taken on a greater role. There is really no other sensor technology today that can contribute to these developments the way machine vision does.

With the growing digitization of industrial production, is the demand for intelligent machine vision technology also growing?

According to a recent report by the German industry association VDMA, German machine vision industry achieved an annual sales growth of 2.6 billion euros in 2017, and a significant percentage of this was in automotive industry. We are seeing very positive prospects for growth. The industry expects an increase in sales of up to 10 percent this year.

How are machine vision systems used? Could you give us an example?

The range of applications that rely on machine vision has grown significantly over the last few years. One example is the development from 2D image processing to three-dimensional systems. In automobile manufacturing, 3D inspection systems scan complex geometries, castings for example. Optical inspection systems not only detect smallest defects, but also provide valuable data that can be used for optimizing processes.

What special requirements must machine vision technology fulfill in automotive manufacturing?

Modern machine vision systems play a key role in the automotive industry when it comes to automation and quality assurance. That is why durability and ease of operation are of particular importance. Systems must also be easy to integrate due to short ramp-up times, for example, in the production of batteries. Finally, systems with a long service life that can be maintained over the long term ensure investment security.

What other innovations do you expect to see in the machine vision industry?

Increasing standardization will link processes to one another more closely and make data-driven process optimization possible. Machine vision technologies and automation, in connection with machine learning, offer numerous new options for making cutting-edge concepts, such as the smart factory, a reality.

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