The Eyes Have It

Apr 22, 2014
Neil Humphrey

A trip to the optometrist for eye care involves plenty of digital imaging

I recently visited my optometrist for a regular checkup, briefly leaving behind topics of machine vision to focus on my own human vision…or so I thought. Turns out there was almost as much digital imaging waiting for me at my doctor’s office as at my own.

Besides the usual acuity charts and prescription checks (and my arch-nemesis, the intra-ocular pressure “puff” machine), Dr. Howard Dolman of Dolman Eyecare was firm in his desire to dilate my pupils to carefully examine and take images of the inside of my eyes. I’ll admit I hate that part, since after the dilation drops everything seems so bright I need to wear sunglasses indoors for the next four hours. But as the good doctor explained the “why” and the “how” of these images, I became more and more interested.

Worldwide, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts (says Wikipedia), affecting 1 in 200 people under age 50, 1 in 10 over age 80, and a much higher proportion of diabetics of all ages. It can be caused by high pressure inside the eye and is characterized by damage to the retina and optic nerve, generally starting from the periphery (and resulting in “tunnel vision”). It can come on quickly and painfully, which patients notice immediately, but it can also progress much more slowly; those affected may not notice problems until the disorder has already caused significant damage…and while there are treatments to slow or even halt the advance of the condition, the damage is incurable and irreversible. Early detection is therefore critical.

With this and other threats in mind, optometrists nowadays image the inside of the eye in several ways. They take color and monochrome images of the retina and its vascularization (veins), looking for signs of current problems or hints of future issues. And as Dr. Dolman explained to me, they now have the technology to take not just 2D photos, but high resolution 3D imagery through a technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT uses multiple (safe) wavelengths of lasers to create interference patterns in the near infrared spectrum several millimeters deep into the back of the retina that can be detected (by appropriately tuned CCD and CMOS image sensors and image processors) and interpreted into 3D data for unprecedented “insight.”


Dr. Dolman showed images of my own eye (above) on his screens. The image data can also be modeled in 3D animations, such as this striking example from Zentrum für Medizinische Physik und Biomedizinische Technik.

The advantages of this approach are compelling. High resolution, real-time, non-invasive imaging that can see under the surface to reveal features or problems long before they are detectable any other way. OCT can flag issues with glaucoma, macular degeneration, and a range of other serious conditions literally years before they become noticeable by any other means, giving doctors and patients precious time to take action. And even if there are no issues to address, OCT images provide an important baseline for future reference.

Needless to say, I was sold. A few hours of mild sunglass-related ridicule from my kids (“Future’s so bright, eh dad?”) was worth it. It was also good to be reminded just how many other applications beyond machine vision depend on digital imaging…come to think of it I have an appointment with the dentist coming up and I believe I’m due for x-rays. Stay tuned.

Posted on by Neil Humphrey in Machine Vision | Leave a comment

Technology @ Work. Liquids Packager Aims for Zero Defects.

Feb 25, 2014

Automation World recently featured a case study from a company called Sealed Air, and how they implemented a machine vision system to inspect the clear plastic liners used to store liquids.

Here’s a summary:

Sealed Air, an Australian maker of machinery and materials  has developed the Entapack Liquid Packaging System – super-tough liners for transportation and storage of liquid and dry solid materials, including bulk liners, bag-in-a-box packaging and aseptic packing for products requiring long shelf life at ambient temperatures.

image_bladder_EntapackThe manufacturing process for these liners provides a new level of safety and protection for the food, beverage and medical industries. But to ensure this, no visible contamination can  be trapped between the layers of the liners. A speck of dust or a hair as small as 50 microns can contaminate the packaging process and cause a system breakdown. Therefore,  100% inspection of every liner was necessary, with a goal of zero defects.

The Solution?

In addition to manufacturing the liquid bladders in a positive-pressure clean room, Sealed Air  implemented a machine vision system with the help of Adept Turnkey Pty and CPE Systems. The existing visual inspection by operators was not adequate for catching 100 percent of defects. Automated optical inspection by machine vision was the only option. But the solution still wasn’t easy.

Piranha line scan cameras were chosen because of their combination of high resolution, speed, and dynamic range. Xcelera frame grabbers were used to interface to the Piranha cameras and the inspection application was built in Teledyne DALSA’s Sherlock software environment.

The system has been in use for over a year and is reliably detecting contaminants and meeting the high standard set by the customer.

Read the full story: “’Zero Defects’ Goal Challenges Liquid Packager” in Automation World.

If you’ve got a story to share – let us know!


Posted on by Geralyn in Cameras, Machine Vision, smart cameras, Software | Leave a comment

A Schongau State of Mind. Innovation, Advancement and Industry Standards.

Feb 18, 2014

Editor’s note: This article published later than expected with thanks to Mike for his patience. For further reading on the standards meetings in Schongau – see the December print edition of inspect magazine.

When do engineers get to:

  • Meet old friends
  • Make new friends
  • Taste delicious foods
  • Enjoy local beverages – in beautiful places – while creating solutions…
  • … and work with competitors?

It’s more often than you might think – and recently – it happened again – and roughly every six months to a year during the machine vision standards committee meetings.

Certainly engineers participating in the meetings come back energized and eager to implement ideas and concepts agreed to during the meetings. So, do companies that contribute the time and expense for engineers to participate get value for their dollar? Read on… I’ll weigh in at the end.

I classify myself as a “hardware” guy and I had doubts about the 2 days of GenICam meetings I signed on for. As Chair of the Camera Link HS (CLHS) Committee, I hope to introduce some of the techniques used to coordinate the efforts of such a large team.

There was a big “Aha Moment”  for me during the 3D presentation which changed the requirements for CLHS revision 2. 3D cameras require that multiple types of data from one “frame” are stored together in one buffer or need to be associated with each other. Each data field or “zone” (as GigE likes to call them) can have different pixel types and bit depths. Revision 2 of CLHS includes multiple ROI from a single frame and as a result of attending the GenICam meetings,  I am happy to report that CLHS will be able to support multiple ROI, each with a different pixel type and bit depth as required by 3D cameras. Methods will be used to enable the camera to change the number and size of the Regions of Interest (ROIs) on every frame and inform the frame grabber and application software about the data that follows. Additionally, a new virtual channel will be added to communicate ROI definitions from the frame grabber to the camera, enabling the frame grabber hardware to command changes, or an application program, with frame by frame capability. Achieving all this functionality exceeded my expectations going into Schongau. I would like to thank the CLHS team for bringing their ideas to the table and for working together to achieve such a fantastic result.

Standards Committee Members

Standards Committee Members.
Copyright: inspect – Wiley-VCH Verlag

Thank you to Werner Feith of Sensor to Image for organizing such a large gathering and for making sure all 70 participants arrived safe, were well fed, and had places to sleep in the beautiful town of Schongau.  On behalf of the CLHS committee I would like to thank Werner and the employees at “Sensor to Image” for inviting the CLHS committee to use their conference room.  The beautiful offices and comfortable conference room helped CLHS achieve more than the goals set for the meeting.

And to answer my own question – “Is there return on investment?”  Innovation starts with understanding problems that require a solution. Standards committees share problems that enable innovation and allow for better products to be developed. Return on investment? I’d say yes – absolutely.

Posted on by Mike in Machine Vision | Leave a comment

Opportunity takes its own tenth birthday pic.

Feb 11, 2014
Neil Humphrey

Last month Mars Rover Opportunity celebrated its tenth anniversary on the red (brown?) planet by snapping a selfie and sending it home. How does it look? It has suffered from the scarcity of local carwashes, but despite the dust buildup, the rover has aged remarkably well.

Think of what were you driving ten years ago…does it run as well as Opportunity still does? Although its twin Spirit got stuck and stopped answering calls in 2010, Opportunity remains active as a low mileage (tens of millions of km flown, but under 40 km on the ground) prestige vehicle that has been very carefully driven.


Opportunity self portraits in 2004 and 2014. What it wouldn’t give for a squeegee. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity’s continued opp-eration is a testament to the incredibly robust system designed by NASA/JPL. It’s one thing to have the latest, gaudiest performance specs; it’s quite another to deliver on your performance for more than 40 times longer than the original spec with no chance of maintenance.

Designing a long lifespan for a product requires engineers to optimize for different priorities. According to Wikipedia, Opportunity’s onboard computer uses a 20 MHz RAD6000 CPU with 128 MB of DRAM, 3 MB of EEPROM, and 256 MB of flash memory–not raw performance numbers that would impress an aficionado even a dozen years ago, but I think we can all recognize and appreciate the primacy of “design for reliability” in this case. Computers are notoriously quick to evolve into obsolescence (every 18 months or so I’m told, and while machine vision systems may iterate at a slower rate, how many of us would expect to install systems today and see them running smoothly ten years on?

Opportunity’s components (thousands and thousands of them) and systems were all designed, simulated, tested, characterized, tested, integrated, tested, and um, re-tested with obsessive-compulsive attention to detail by people who took pride in their work and thought about the long term. When so many of the technology products we buy (and sell) today are intended to be disposable and intentionally replaceable, it is refreshing to consider things built to last. (Full disclosure: Teledyne DALSA has skin in this game, having manufactured the image sensors on the rovers’ Hazcams and Navcams). Granted, Opportunity is ultimately also disposable (sadly nobody is going to go retrieve it), but it is definitely not replaceable. Opportunity and its designers deserve not just a slow clap but a full-throated standing ovation*. Long may it continue…it and its younger sibling Curiosity.

You can follow more adventures of all the Mars rovers at

*(and so, it should be said, does Spirit, which didn’t burn out as much as it faded away—stuck in terrain that could only be guessed at during its design phase, Spirit eventually ran out of power because of the buildup of dust on its solar panels and the fact it couldn’t reach a location with more solar exposure).

Posted on by Neil Humphrey in Cameras, Image Sensors, Machine Vision | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Stopping Time with TDI

Jan 21, 2014

What if you could stop time? In addition to being able to eat as much as you want without consequences, there is also a compelling case for it in machine vision.

Let’s say you are running a web process of some kind. Unlike discrete components like bottles or cans, a web is a continuous flow of material like paper, steel, aluminum, or fabric – just to name a few. And let’s say you have a vision system to inspect this web (probably with a line scan camera to handle the continuous flow of material), but you simply can’t get enough light into the camera for a good quality image. Lack of sufficient light is a common problem in web inspection (stay with me – I promise to return to why you might want to stop time).

Continuous sheet of metallic material

Continuous sheet of metallic material

Continue reading

Posted on by Glen in Machine Vision | Leave a comment

Camera Link HS Raises the Roof on ROI

Oct 8, 2013
Simplified Inspection

Simplified Inspection

Consider a typical inspection system (Fig. 1) consisting of an area camera inspecting an object with 4 holes near each corner. The inspection system exists to confirm the size and relative location of each hole.

The traditional CCD camera reads out the entire field of view with a resulting transmission bandwidth of  720 MPix/sec Continue reading

Posted on by Mike in Cameras, Interface Standards, Machine Vision | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

When Machine Vision meets the NFL

Sep 10, 2013

TDALSA_freeD_jumboscreenWhere were you Sunday evening? As a football fan, I was watching the Dallas Cowboys Season Opener against the New York Giants, on NBC Sunday Night Football. This was a defining moment for Machine Vision: the first time that Replay Technologies “FreeD” was deployed on NFL turf to display “Matrix-like 3D rendering of the action. And they happen to be using technology powered by Teledyne DALSA! I’m not used to seeing our products showcased during prime time on a major US network, hence my enthusiasm for this particular game (granted I always enjoy the performance of the Cowboys cheerleaders, who wouldn’t?). Continue reading

Posted on by Eric in Cameras, Frame grabbers, Interface Standards, Machine Vision, Teledyne DALSA News | 4 Comments

Look Who Just Turned 40!

Jun 18, 2013

At home, I’m the unofficial “Tech” responsible for ensuring that our home computer network runs smoothly. At last count, we have a dozen different devices running on the network, including several smart phones, a few laptops, a printer and just recently a new smart TV. Of all those devices, the one with the potential for the biggest headache is the printer. With my high school and university age children always choosing to print their assignments either late at night or in the morning before they leave the house, my job is to make sure the printer is always up and running, ready to print at a moment’s notice. Continue reading

Posted on by Patrick Myles in Cameras, Interface Standards, Machine Vision | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Talking about media coverage…

May 31, 2013
Our article is featured on the May 2013 issue of Photonics Spectra

Our article is featured on the May 2013 issue of Photonics Spectra

Every once in a while, we make the cover of a magazine, and this is one of those times. We’re pretty proud to say that our Senior Product Manager, Xing-Fei He, wrote a stellar article on trilinear camera technology that was published in Photonics Spectra; the fact that it was deemed to be cover-worthy makes it really worth bragging about!

Other great articles we’ve been featured in include the following:

1. From Pole To Pole: Correct identification of faulty components in battery manufacture – INSPECT

2. Choosing a Vision Interface Standard – Assembly Magazine

3. Counts: Using algorithms to extract quantitative information from an image – Quality Magazine

4. The Noise Equivalent Dose – Advance for Imaging & Radiation Oncology

This varied reading list should last you for the rest of the Spring and we will have more to share with you in the Summer. Until then, happy reading!

Posted on by Heather in Machine Vision | Leave a comment

Coming Soon! The Ultimate Guide to MV Interface Standards.

May 17, 2013

These days, we see more and more camera interface standards bubbling up. Following on the heels of the original Firewire and Camera Link standards, we saw the advent of GigE Vision. And over the last few years, Camera Link HS, CoaXPress, and USB3 Vision have joined the horde to create options going further than anything we had thought possible in those early days. I believe it is difficult for us, as engineers, to imagine that more effervescence is possible, but the recent Vision Standards technical meeting in Seoul (April 2013) proved the opposite. Interest has never been so high around the support for all of these innovative options. Continue reading

Posted on by Eric in Interface Standards, Machine Vision | Leave a comment