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Watching 3D Cameras


Watching 3D Cameras



3D movies have been around for a while and we like watching things pop out of the screen at us. But can the same cameras and system software be used in industrial automation?


To film a 3D image you need two cameras to film the same scene from exactly the precise angle from which users will be looking at the screen. Since the best way to do this is to mount the cameras in industrial automation this makes it easy to do.


As well as multiple cameras, there are other technologies, that involve laser light, available to the developers of 3D imaging in industrial automation. These include:

Sheet-of-light triangulation aka laser profiling uses laser lights to measure/triangulate an objects profile where the resulting sensor image is evaluated by the camera core and converted into a single height profile. The software will then asses the data and use it to build a picture of the object.  

Time-of-flight - A time-of-flight camera is a 3D vision system that that evaluates the distance and dimensions of an object by measuring the speed at which the lights return to the sensor.


Unfortunately these ideas sound easier than they are. The down side from an industrial automation point of view is that it’s quite difficult to precisely align the objects in from of the cameras to get the best lighting conditions and the amount of processing power required to achieve a quick result is quite large. Because of these complexities and the cost of investment 3D imaging has never really taken off in industrial automation.


But things are changing and now, largely thanks to devices like Microsoft  Kinect which have driven down the cost of high quality CCDs, cameras and their controlling hardware, it’s possible to use just a single camera to produce 3D vision, at least that what ISRA Vision are claiming that “It is now possible, from one single captured image, to precisely define a three-dimensional object based on the measurement of only three criteria in all six degrees of freedom (position and orientation)”. As well as being able to recognize parts in a rack, the single camera can also determine where parts of an object should be placed within a 3D environment.


But even if a single camera doesn’t quite fit the criteria, advances in lens and CCD technology are helping to reduce the size and increase the speed of producing 3D images. Companies like Scorpion Vision are producing stereoscopic cameras that have small form factors and can perform 3D vision on the fly.


There are many potential applications for 3D cameras in industrial automation such as: Parts verification, Surface scanning Variety of inspections, General machine vision, Robotic guidance, Security/surveillance, Medical and biometrics, General measurement, Completeness check and the decoding of stamped parts and now that they are cheaper to buy and install they are more likely to gain traction.