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Trend Watch – 3D Camera and Sensor Innovations

When many people think about advancements in automation, they think of robotics or software and artificial intelligence. But one of the automation technologies that is having a large impact in helping businesses increase productivity, efficiency and revenue is actually machine vision – which pairs with robots and AI quite well.

While machine vision isn’t a new technology, it is driving new processes and unlocking opportunities for many industries. We’re talking automotive manufacturing to food and beverage production to warehouses and fulfillment centers, medical facilities to medical imaging and more. Machine vision capabilities can help give autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) sight, inspect and ensure quality control, and even use image data to make decisions.

Image Sensor Technology Tales Flight

We mentioned earlier how machine vision can give robots sight, and that’s important when it comes to navigating their environment. But a big part of that progress is image sensor technology. This tech has evolved by leaps and bounds over the last three decades – boosting speed and resolution while greatly reducing costs.

Take 3D Time of Flight (ToF) systems which can help AMRs reliably detect obstacles and avoid collisions by creating a visual of their environment. Some systems can even provide a 360-degree field of view that gives a comprehensive look at an environment. The best part is engineers are just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible with image sensor technology. For example, expanded image formats can now support different sensors from 3D ToF sensors to nonvisible image sensors (such as near infrared and shortwave infrared).

3D Imaging Gets a Better View

Advancements in today’s 3D vision systems deliver more robust solutions. For some companies, that may mean using cameras to calculate the dimensions of objects that need to be picked or placed with ease and precision. For others, it could mean scanning lasers to provide a 3D profile of objects.

One example where 3D imaging is being leveraged today is in machine tending and bin picking. With 3D imaging software, robots can pick up parts and place (or present) them on automated machining or processing equipment. Not only does imagining software help maintain quality control and consistency when it comes to these tasks but picking robots can free up employees for high-level or critical-thinking roles.

Image Quality Reaches New Heights

Imaging sensors and other machine vision solutions are paving the way forward for many businesses – from small companies to large enterprises. But with that comes a demand for higher-resolution images and high-speed performance. Many automation manufacturers have been making camera and interface improvements to meet this need and provide more reliability for users.

Depending on the vision system implemented, you may need to keep in mind details like frame rates for systems capturing large-data images. And don’t forget high-speed interfacing between the camera and processor—or even connectivity between multiple cameras.

Experience the latest advancements and tried-and-true technologies firsthand at the Automate Exhibition June 6–9 in Detroit, Michigan, USA.