Five reasons why manufacturers might want to care about machine vision systems

Many manufacturers, in places like Vancouver Island, compete on a global scale against highly capable companies that could be located anywhere in the world. As burgeoning economies produce good products with low labour costs, Canadian manufacturers need to take advantage of every opportunity to maintain a competitive edge. Our labour costs aren’t very low, we need to ship raw materials onto the island and then our products back off again, and in some cases we have to buy supplies with expensive US dollars. We need to stay at the top of our game if the region is going to remain competitive. This means maintaining a competent workforce that is empowered to be highly productive, and also maintaining exceptional quality.

There are a number of tools in the productivity tool-box that are worth knowing about – one being machine vision systems. Machine vision is the automated extraction of useful information from digital images in an industrial setting (More info here) As part of the advanced manufacturing landscape, machine vision systems can improve productivity and help maintain quality. The following is a short list of applications that should get your creative juices flowing. You can also learn more from Camosun’s Manufacturing Professional’s Network on June 9th when we hear from Bruno Parent from Matrox Imaging.

1. Product Inspection: Vision systems can quickly and easily inspect a wide array of products, from circuit boards to machined parts. In circuit boards for example, these systems can quickly identify missing components, inspect sub-assemblies, identify/classify specific boards with bar-codes or serialization, inspect ball-grid arrays, identify alignment issues and part orientation, and a variety of other human or machine errors… all in a fraction of a second. For machined parts, the same is true for identifying machined features or ensuring assembled components are all present. The short video below is an example from a bottling plant where machine vision is used to identify missing, broken, or cross-threaded bottle-caps.

2. Robot Guidance: Some may argue that there are not nearly enough robot systems in Vancouver Island manufacturers, and that this is an indication of the overall level of automation. There are many challenges related to robot applications, including the need for a highly constrained work environment to make sure things are exactly where needed for a robot to manipulate a part. Vision systems are often used to help robots “see” exactly where a part is and how it is oriented. This “robot vision” significantly increases the applications for which a robot is useful.

3. Sorting: I’ve been in a food processing/distribution plant where tomatoes were sorted according to colour. Ripe tomatoes were sent off for distribution, while unripe tomatoes were warehoused for another day (to ripen up) and then be sorted again later. Two people spent hours… sorting, and then sorting again, every day catching the ones that they felt were ripe enough to go to market. An obvious application for an automated sorting systems based on vision. The speed could be increased significantly with reduced error. Sorting any product in large volume is a tedious task, better suited to a machine.

4. Automated Welding Control: It is well known that robot welding systems can improve weld quality and speed for repetitive welding tasks. Machine vision is often used to increase the quality significantly by scanning the Region of Interest to identify the exact joint location and measure the gap in the joint to fine-tune the weld parameters for each weld. Often 3D vision systems are used for this application.

5. Measurement: Machine vision systems are also ideally suited for rapid measurement of objects. Besides identifying and comparing shape and orientation of items, high speed measurements and comparisons can be made on the fly. This can improve quality control of parts and sub-assemblies, and also be used to correctly position adjoining parts.

There are many other applications for Machine vision systems including pattern/trend recognition, comparison, text and bar-code reading, machine guidance, berry picking, packaging, quality control, etc. Join us on June 9th as we explore this topic with industrial application leaders for machine vision from Matrox and Integrys.

June 9 – Matrox presents at the Manufacturing Professional’s Network

Featuring: Bruno Parent from Matrox Imaging and Wayne Mason from Integrys

Time: Doors open at 2:45, speakers have the floor from 3:00 – 4:00. Optional Networking and follow-on discussion until 4:30.

Location: Camosun College Interurban Campus,  Cafeteria Annex,  Building 15 on this Campus map.

What is the MPN? The Manufacturing Professional’s Network is an informal group that meets to network and learn about manufacturing resources. It is hosted by CTAC, is free and open to anyone that acts in a management capacity in a manufacturing company. More info can be found here.

More about this meeting:

June’s MPN meeting will feature Bruno Parent, Matrox’s sales manager for Canada and Europe, and Wayne Mason from Integrys, Matrox’s Canadian representative.

Among other things, Matrox is a leading designer and producer of hardware and software for machine vision in industrial automation. Integrys is a technology supplier and integration leader, helping industry adopt innovative solutions to improve productivity and quality.

For a short overview of why you might care about machine vision, have a quick look at this.

Only 13% of you are ready for Disruptive Industrial Technology

The Canadian arm of the international consulting firm Deloitte, has published a report that states that “Rapid advances in key technologies are poised to disrupt many of the industries that anchor our economy”. A study of 700 business of various sizes and sectors showed that only 13% are prepared to compete as industrial technology advances rapidly. They also state that many Canadian companies have “little to no idea that they are investing less than their [American] peers on technology and R&D.”

The article is definitely worth a read. They talk about the  five technologies that are going to be driving disruptive innovation. They are: Advanced Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Networks, Advanced Manufacturing, and Collaborative Connected Platforms. What I find most interesting is that they identify a “preparedness perception gap” where 68% of the unprepared firms believe themselves to be fully prepared!

One might be tempted to think that the report is Doloitte’s way of drumming up consulting business, and there may be an aspect of this; however, it is important to put this in context with other findings. Over the past few years, there have been a number of reports, including the Jenkins Report that have described a significant Canadian Innovation Gap. Jenkins “Innovation Canada: a call to action” outlines how the federal government can assist industrial R&D, which includes (among other things) focused defence spending and utilization of college resources to assist with industry R&D.

All is not doom and gloom however, Deloitte goes on to identify a “Path to Preparedness” that includes such things as Cultivating Awareness, Building the Right Culture, Fostering Agility, and Developing Effective Resources. They also outline recommendations for Governments and Academia. You can take comfort in knowing that Camosun’s Technology Access Centre is helping companies on Vancouver Island adopt advanced manufacturing technologies, and has a strong set of resources to help companies develop and improve their products, as well as improve their processes with automation, and robotics.

Deloitte’s Report in pdf form can be accessed by clicking here.

AIAC Pacific R&D Info Session

Thursday, April 30 – 9 am to 1 pm

Open to companies that participate in the Aerospace sector on Vancouver Island.

Earlier this year the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) held a workshop in Richmond to provide the BC aerospace industry with an overview of the national R&D program and to review project proposals. CARIC’s goal is to drive innovation to enhance competitiveness and business growth in the aerospace sector. The session was well attended, but without any representation from aerospace companies on Vancouver Island. To ensure no one is missing out on potential opportunities, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC Pacific), now representing CARIC in BC and Alberta, together with Camosun College, invite you to attend an Aerospace R&D information session:

Camosun College – Interurban Campus, 4461 Interurban Road​, Saanich

Centre for Business & Access – CBA Room 286

(campus map: )


AIAC Pacific/CARIC will provide an association and industry update, followed by a presentation on CARIC and research funding opportunities and timetable, and a review of large and small sample proposals. Camosun and the Province will provide information regarding their support for the sector. Plus, you will have an opportunity over lunch (which is provided) to network with industry colleagues, and representatives of AIAC Pacific and the educational institutions.

There is no charge to attend the event, but pay parking at Camosun is in effect.

Please RSVP to Trace Acres, 604-970-1795.

We hope to see you on the 30th!