With machine vision (MV) technology, you no longer need people to perform inspections for quality control. MV uses a combination of high-speed cameras and computers to perform complex inspection tasks in addition to digital image acquisition and analysis. You can use the resulting data for pattern recognition, object sorting, robotic arm control, and more. MV applications include:

  • Defect detection
  • Gauging
  • Guidance, part tracking, and identification
  • Optical character recognition and verification (OCR/OCV)
  • Pattern recognition
  • Packaging, product, surface, and web inspections

Intel® FPGA Advantages—Performance, Flexibility, and Connectivity

As illustrated below, FPGAs such as Intel's® MAX® 10 and Cyclone® IV device families enable MV designers like you to:

  • Achieve high-performance image preprocessing on frame grabber boards (using protocols such as Camera Link), approaching real-time frame rates
  • Integrate real-time functions into the camera system for pixel-oriented gain control, compensation of defective pixels, increased dynamic range, and more
  • Capitalize on the flexibility of FPGAs to support evolving camera interfaces, such as GigE Vision and Camera Link
  • Implement various bus interfaces, such as PCITM, PCIe®, Gbps Ethernet, USB, and others
  • Integrate a wide range of functions such as image capture, camera interfaces, preprocessing, and communication functions, all within a single FPGA
  • Using the Cyclone V SoC, combine your image signal processing pipeline with machine vision algorithms executing the ARM® A9 hard processor system to build complete machine vision systems of chip
  • Use Simulink and Embedded Coder from The MathWorks to generate C/C++ code for Intel® Cyclone V SoCs. When used in combination with Intel® SoC support from HDL Coder, this solution can be utilized in a hardware/software workflow spanning simulation, prototyping, verification, and implementation on Intel® SoCs. For more information, visit https://www.mathworks.com/hardware-support/altera-soc-ecoder.html.

Flexibility—FPGAs Support Different Sensor and MV Interfaces

GigE Vision provides an open, high-performance, scalable framework for image streaming and device control over Ethernet networks. This interface standard provides an environment for networked machine vision systems based on switched client/server architectures, allowing you to connect multiple cameras to multiple computers.

It includes the following characteristics:

  • Specification managed by the Automated Imaging Association (AIA)
  • Protocol implemented over Ethernet/IP/UDP with data transfer rates up to 1 Gbps using Gbps Ethernet, scalable to 10 Gbps with 10-Gbps Ethernet
  • Data transfer length up to 100 m with copper
  • Use of switches, repeaters, or fiber optic converters to increase the data transfer length
  • Use of low-cost cables (CAT5e or CAT6), standard connectors, and hardware

GigE Vision Application Example Using Multiple GigE Cameras

 

Figure 1. GigE Vision application example using multiple GigE cameras

Courtesy of Pleora Technologies Inc.

You can obtain several key benefits by implementing GigE Vision applications using FPGAs such as Intel's® MAX 10, Cyclone IV, and Cyclone V device families:

  • Integration of image capture, camera interfaces, preprocessing, and communications within a single FPGA device
  • Flexibility to support different camera interfaces and bus interfaces as they evolve
  • Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) with reduced board size, reduced component count, and minimal hardware re-spins
  • Reduced risk of obsolescence due to long FPGA life cycles and easy migration to newer FPGA families

For more information, please contact your local Altera® distributor sales office or visit our partners.

Frame grabbers link between MV cameras and the host PC which runs the machine vision algorithms.   Current versions typically use PCI-e to transfer the video from the camera to the host processor in an industrial computer.

USB 3 Vision is emerging as a very popular interface.  Benefits of using USB 3 are abundance of USB 3 interfaces on current PCs, low cost, up to 5 Gbps transfer rate, low power and CPU overhead, and combined data and power on a single cable up to 5 meters without active repeaters.

CoaXPress can transmit up to 6.25 Gbps per cable, while enabling up to 130M cable length. Recent development of Quad link cables and connectors enable up to 25Gbps for very demanding, high bandwidth connections to high performance cameras. Combinations of single, dual, or quad camera support can be managed with cards supporting the quad link CoaXPress interface.

MV cameras with Thunderbolt™ interfaces are now emerging.  Thunderbolt allows up to 10Gbps, and Thunderbolt 2 allows up to 20 Gbps transfers.  Initially deployed on Apple computers and laptops, it is increasingly becoming widely available as these high performance links are appearing in more chipsets and PC Motherboards.  It offers similar benefits as USB 3, but with higher transfer rates as well as options to utilize copper or optical cables.