Jools Hudson for Gardasoft Vision explains to MVPro why connectivity in machine vision is so important and how the new Open Lens Communication Standard and the GenIcam Harvester project from EMVA are creating new opportunities for machine vision
Gardasoft Marketing Manager, Jools Hudson, explained to me how the company evolved from its early days into a global provider of machine vision control technology. “Gardasoft Vision was originally founded in 1999 to produce lighting controllers that were used for machine vision LED lighting. In the period since then we have expanded our expertise so that we now offer a range of sophisticated control and sequencing technology which is mostly for machine vision, but not exclusively. We have created a versatile range of controllers to precisely trigger, sequence and drive devices such as LEDs and liquid lenses which need an accurate current drive. Our controllers are used extensively in both factory automation and traffic applications, and we also manufacture a range of high-intensity strobe lights that are popular for line scan, web inspection, traffic management and rail asset management.”
Technical excellence underpins the success of Gardasoft. “We make a really significant investment in research and development every year”, commented Jools, “and this gives us the capability to drive the latest technologies and also allow us to develop new products really fast for our customers. It’s common for machine vision applications to throw up challenges that can’t be met using standard components and we’re in a unique position to create specialist, bespoke controllers – quickly. Over the years we’ve designed a lot of custom products for specialist OEMs and System Integrators.
These days there’s growing demand from OEMs and Systems Integrators, and also from machine builders, for small, self-contained vision systems that can be built into small or awkward spaces. These kinds of system often need embedded control of other aspects of the vision system, such as the illumination or the lens, and we’ve met this need by developing highperformance, embedded controllers specifically for applications such as motorised lenses, liquid or focus tunable lenses and lighting.”
The need to understand both the available technology and the customer’s application leads us nicely to the subject of standards and connectivity. Jools said, “One undoubted breakthrough for the machine vision industry has been the establishment of the GigE Vision and GenIcam standards. They have brought us enhanced connectivity and the ability to integrate vision with other ethernet components including our ethernet-enabled lighting. These two standards also bring users the reassurance that GigE-compliant components from different manufacturers can be used interchangeably. Gardasoft recognises the growing demand for better connectivity between machine vision components and control systems and a couple of years ago we launched the triniti™ lighting control system which provides really good connectivity all the way from the control system to the LED lighting itself. This intelligent platform networks LED lighting, camera and imaging software to provide an integrated application with a single graphical interface. Using triniti technology a single interface can be used to set up both camera and lighting, adjust the system timing and view the captured images. The final settings can be sent to both camera and controller. When we launched our liquid lens controllers we expanded the system so that Optotune focus-tunable lenses can also be controlled with triniti.”
Although this sounds a pretty comprehensive approach, there s still plenty more to come, as Jools explained. “There are two exciting developments that build on GenIcam and offer lots of potential for users. The first is the new Open Lens Communication Standard being produced by EMVA which enables lens parameters to be controlled via GenIcam and also feed information back from the lens to the camera. This will be particularly important for lenses which have motors driving focus, zoom or aperture and also for liquid lens control. I’m very excited about the Open Lens standard because it will open new possibilities for controlling focus and depth of field and integrating these parameters into image acquisition. The second development is the GenIcam Harvester project that’s being developed with backing from EMVA. Harvester is an opensource image acquisition library, which can accommodate image acquisition, device manipulation and image data visualization. Harvester sits between the GenIcam layer and the application. One of its major benefits is to provide access to image processing libraries for anyone who’s interested without all that cost and complexity that comes from using proprietary protocols and applications. For Gardasoft it opens up a number of possibilities, including replacing our existing SDKs with dedicated Harvester modules. This will make it much easier to create integrated solutions because data from the various different components like lights, cameras and lenses can be handled together. Variables like light intensity, pulse frequency, liquid lens autofocus, camera shutter speed and many other parameters will all be available. It will also be possible to build in automatic software updates, which will smooth away another potential source of problems. I’m really excited about the capability to develop a huge range of new applications based on Harvester.”
Gardasoft will be demonstrating some of the potential offered by GenIcam Harvester at the Vision Show in Stuttgart, 6-8 November 2018. Harvester is distributed at www.GitHub.com and the GenICam package is distributed at www.emva.org.
Jools Hudson runs the strategic marketing for Gardasoft Vision.
Jools received her early training at the University of Surrey, studying for a degree in engineering. After some years designing initially hardware and then software for Racal and Dowty she took up an offer to study for an MBA at Cranfield University. Jools used her new knowledge to make a move into marketing and promoted the very technology she had previously designed. In recent years, Jools has been responsible for marketing, sales and technical support functions for a number of instrumentation and imaging companies including Thorlabs and Carl Zeiss Microscopy.