CANTON, Mass. Robotic Vision Systems Inc. has placed a real-time machine-vision system on a single PCI card.
Called Visionscape, the miniature system integrates a low-level ASIC vision chip with a MIPS RISC processor running a real-time operating system. The PCI-bus host computer supplies the high-level programming interface, but the Visionscape board handles all real-time tasks independently.
With its concentrated hardware, the single-card vision system can "answer interrupts completely independently of the PC," said Ed Caracappa, semiconductor project manager at Robotic Vision Systems (RVSI), here. Moreover, users can access the hardware "from the application domain, because we have integrated into our development environment thousands of successful factory-floor applications," said John Agapakis, vice president of research and development.
RVSI has developed both identification and inspection systems, but Visionscape is the first integrated solution. All the common 2-D tasks such as neural-network-based optical character recognition, bar-code tracking, fault detection, gauging, and other inspection and automatic identification tasks can be done from a single platform. Tasks in 3-D can also be performed using the extra camera hookups to show depth, but Visionscape is not specifically designed for 3-D inspection.
The Visionscape hardware consists of a PCI board containing the 64-bit MIPS RISC chip, the VxWorks real-time OS from Wind River Systems Inc. in ROM, up to four camera inputs, 16 digital I/O lines and eight analog outputs for controlling lighting. According to RVSI, the ASIC accelerates all low-level vision-processing tasks by twofold compared with expensive separate boards, and tenfold compared to systems running their real-time tasks on the host PC. Camera inputs utilize personalized daughtercards, which match Visionscape to currently popular video cameras.
Remarkably, communication between the RTOS and the host PC is performed by a TCP/IP connection implemented over the PCI bus. In this way, an operator communicates with the factory-floor controllers using the net-from across the room or across the nation-based on the same TCP/IP protocols that both the Internet and Ethernet use.
"You could easily set up your applications to monitor and control the factory floor from a Web page," said Caracappa.
Each camera input to the PCI board can be controlled from a different window on the host PC, or a separate SVGA monitor can be attached to the card for an independent display with full graphics overlay support. Each window or monitor provides access to the full array of machine-vision algorithms that RVSI has compiled from applications in semiconductor, automotive and pharmaceutical industries.
A built-in graphical user interface steps operators through setting up the run-time environment for Visionscape. Graphical building blocks allow operators to string together machine-vision tasks in an on-screen flow chart, which is then automatically configured in the hardware to match.
For some well-developed application areas, such as ball-grid-array inspection systems, the graphical representation of the application looks on-screen exactly like the real-world counterpart. In other words, the placement of BGA components on a board is displayed just as it appears on the real board.
Once the operator has the graphical representation matching the real board, all manner of high-level commands become active, besides all the automatic measurements that are taken and displayed in overlays. The presence, size, shape, placement accuracy and other common inspection tasks take just a few high-level commands.
The high-level development environment, called Visionscape Studio, permits any machine-vision application developer to quickly attach a custom graphical interface for operators. Visual-Basic or Visual-C++ can access finished Studio routines, or they can be encapsulated in Active X controls.