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And then there was light!

Editor Neil Martin asks two illumination companies and one filter company about their main product focus for the year. Illumination is a key sub-sector of the machine vision sector and although it does not always get the attention it deserves, without it things would literally be very gloomy indeed.

Gardasoft Vision

Based in Cambridge, UK and New Hampshire, US, Gardasoft is a global leader in the design, manufacture and application of high performance LED control technology and high intensity LED lighting. Its products and technologies aim to meet the ever increasing demands of lighting for Vision Systems and Image Recognition. The company’s LED Controller range offers precise light intensity control of illumination, as well as fast and microsecond accurate timing for strobe control and high speed applications; and its specialist, high intensity LED Lighting, is a market leader for Line Scan, Web Inspection and Traffic ANPR applications. Gardasoft is a wholly-owned subsidiary of OPTEX, Japan.

Trade shows

The company is an active participant at industry shows and, for example, it will be previewing a new approach to rapid focusing for traffic applications at Intertraffic Amsterdam, held in The Netherlands on 20 – 23 March. The system being previewed utilises a shape-changing liquid lens from Optotune AG in combination with a traditional fixed focus lens. Driven by Gardasoft’s TR-CL180 lens controller, the focus of a liquid lens can be changed in ten milliseconds, allowing precise focusing over a wide range of distances.

The company explained that many ITS applications, including speed and red light enforcement, require several images to be captured at different distances. For a single camera solution using a fixed focus lens, the aperture needs to be stopped down to provide sufficient depth of field for adequately focused images to be taken at each distance. This severely reduces the amount of light reaching the camera sensor, and also means that the images cannot be in precise focus at all distances. However, the liquid lens configuration allows the aperture to be opened up to allow more light through while still obtaining precise focus at any working distance.

The liquid lenses are based on a patented combination of optical fluids and a movable polymer membrane. The TR-CL180 controller drives an electrically controlled outer diaphragm which moves the membrane to change the shape of the lens. When used in conjunction with a 200mm macro lens the focus can typically be adjusted from 100mm to infinity.

Sector growth

The question for any company operating in a particular sector, is whether they expect growth. Jools Hudson, at Gardasoft, replied: “Various analysts predict compound growth in the global machine vision market of around 8% in coming years, with growth in traditional manufacturing sectors and most likely growth in the lighting sector as well. “We expect Gardasoft sales to grow at a significantly higher rate as engineers gain a better understanding of the performance benefits to be obtained from lighting controllers.”

As for their main product focus for the year, Hudson said: “Our current product portfolio still has a lot of untapped potential. With our triniti Intelligent Machine Vision platform now including control for industrial liquid lenses we can provide systems integrators and machine builders with seamless access and control of system cameras, lighting and lenses using conventional image processing software or via a triniti SDK. We also intend to expand the use of our CC320 Machine Vision Timing Controller which provides an easy and complete solution for accurate triggering of cameras and lighting. The CC320 works like a very fast PLC (SPS).”

New products

And when it comes to new products: “We plan to extend our embedded vision product offering, including a board-level version of the liquid lens controller, as well as focusing on triggering over Ethernet in traditional machine vision applications. This will allow much more plug and play for users, eliminate trigger wiring and make it easier to set accurate trigger timing. We already have our triniti vision utility which helps with this.”

Gardasoft has clear objectives for the year: “GVL will work to enhance the ease with which our product portfolio can be integrated into machine vision systems. We will further extend the use of GenICam and promote the GenICam Standard Features Naming Convention standard that we championed, which enhances interconnectivity between machine vision components. “We will be raising awareness of the benefits of precise lighting control and wider trigger timing control and further develop the use of triggering over Ethernet. We will also be looking to develop new products both for machine vision applications and the traffic and transport sector.”

Trend

When asked how the sector will develop over the coming years, Hudson said: “The continued trend towards cameras operating at higher resolution and faster frame rates will require larger, more powerful lights, especially line lights. These, in turn will need controllers to drive them with faster pulsing and higher pulse power.”

Midwest Optical Systems

With its headquarters in Palatine, Illinois, Midwest Optical Systems, or MidOpt as its commonly known, has been around for 30 years, innovating in the fields of optical design, fabrication and inspection. The company is a worldwide leader in machine vision filters and optical solutions, and is represented in over 30 countries, offering over 3,000 products. MidOpt filters aim to ensure flawless control, dependable results and the very best image quality. Unlike traditional filters, MidOpt filters are designed with a Gaussian transmission curve to allow maximum transmission, which emulate the output of the most common LED wavelengths and are less angular dependent.

Recently it launched the MidOpt NS100 Neutral Density (ND) Filter Swatch Kit. ND Filter Swatch Kits include all of the most popular ND Filters and, said the company, allows the user to stack multiple ND Filters to achieve a custom optical density. The NS100, said the company, is a great tool to have in the field, or in a laboratory to test the effects of ND Filters, solve applications quickly and improve image quality.

Sunglasses for your system

The company added that Neutral Density Filters, recognized in the industry as “sunglasses for your system,” are designed to reduce light intensity neutrally over a specific wavelength range without affecting image color, or contrast. They also serve as a great solution for lens aperture control and reducing depth of field. ND Filters are available in both absorptive and reflective style options and can be used with monochrome, or color cameras.Mike Giznik, Vice President at MidOpt, outlined the company’s main product focus for 2018: “We are directing a lot of our focus to some of the up-and-coming industries, including autonomous vehicles, agricultural inspection and 3D metrology.”

“We are directing a lot of our focus to some of the up-and-coming industries…As for whether the company is introducing new products, Giznik said: “We are creating a new series of bandpass filters and polarizers to meet the advancements in camera and lighting technology.”

Short wavelength infrared

When it came to the sector in general and how it should perform in 2018: “We’ve witnessed the advancements in short wavelength infrared (SWIR) LEDs and feel there will be a greater need for filters in these wavelengths in the near future. “With the advancements in industrial vision, there will be a need for more efficient and advanced illumination.”As for MidOpt’s main objectives in 2018: “We are putting a major focus on implementing new advanced technology to continue raising the standard for machine vision filters worldwide.”

Spectrum Illumination

Founded in 1999 by David and Naomi Muyskens, the team at Spectrum Illumination believed they could deliver a better lighting solution for the machine vision industry at a lower cost. The company has grown and now provides customers with a high level of customer service, smart lighting solutions and a complete suport package.

When a customer orders a light, they are supplied with everything they need to get it up and running. All of the company’s signature Monster Lights come standard with light, controller, and cable.

Spectrum Illumination’s products include backlights, dome lights, linear lights, diffused axial lights, oxy lights, ring lights, spot lights, and several washdown options. They also sell their patented LDM controllers, cables, and other replacement parts. Many of their newer products are outfitted with a built-in driver. These include their E-Series of lights and their Xtreme Monster series. Their E-Series was created as an economy, or budget friendly line for their customers, while their Xtreme Monster Series was created for applications that require a high intensity light. Both offer lightweight aluminium housings, making them a robot-friendly weight. They also distribute Master Distributor of Latab Lighting in North and South America

Launch

They recently announced the launch of a Dual Channel Ring Light, a new edition to the Monster Light family. This ring light allows the customer to have two colors in one light, with customers choosing from a number of color combinations. The current available options are 365, 395, 470, 530, 630, WHI, NWH, and WWH. This light is also available in IR in limited combinations. The package includes the light, two LDM 700s and a four-meter cable. Valerie Muyskens told us that as regards the product focus for the year: “Our focus this year is going to be on the introduction of some new products. We hope to showcase these at the Vision show in Stuttgart, Germany this November.”

The company are releasing new products: “We are very excited about some new products we plan to launch this coming year. Unfortunately, we believe these products are too valuable to hint at just yet, but we expect to launch some innovative new products that will definitely change Machine Vision LED lighting going forward.”“…we believe these products are too valuable to hint at just yet…”

Ambitions

Muyskens went on to explain that as far as the company’s ambitions went for the year, they were centred on “…broadening our reach within different industries and different geographical areas.”

As for the sector itself, and the question of whether the sector will grow during the year, the reply was: “Well I can’t speak to what it was worth this past year, I can say that we have seen an increase in LED lighting sales during the second half of 2017. We expect this growth to continue especially with the release of new products.”

And, finally, how will the sector grow over the coming year: “With the continued movement to automation we expect LED lighting to keep growing. Many of our distributors have been working on completely new and special applications. In addition, many of the end users are companies trying to automate and increase efficiency.

“The companies who have been ahead of the curve using automation already are continuing to improve the systems they have in place. LEDs have come a long way since Spectrum Illumination began in 1999. We are constantly upgrading our signature Monster Series to implement the newest and best LEDs on the market. And our newer lines continue to improve as well.”