Vision Systems 320

“Vision Systems” provides an overview of industrial vision systems and how they are used in factory automation. A vision system uses cameras, image sensors, lighting, and processing software. Vision system cameras require adequate lighting to function effectively and must be mounted properly. Visions systems can be integrated into an automated production line or with industrial robots.

Integrating vision systems into automated production lines to extract and use image data is known as machine vision. Machine vision is most commonly used for inspection, identification, material handling, fabrication, and machining. After taking this class, users will be familiar with common vision system characteristics, components, types, and applications, as well as their general operating process.

Class Details

Class Name:
Vision Systems 320
Number of Lessons:

Class Outline

  • Industrial Vision Systems
  • Vision System Applications
  • Image Scanning
  • Types of Vision Systems
  • Review: Vision System Technology and Applications
  • Camera Components
  • Lighting Techniques
  • Lighting Types and Sources
  • Review: Vision System Cameras and Lighting
  • Vision System Configuration
  • Image Acquisition and Analysis
  • Communication and Output
  • Review: Machine Vision Setup and Process


  • Describe vision systems in factory automation.
  • Describe manufacturing applications for vision systems.
  • Distinguish between line scan and area scan technologies.
  • Describe types of vision systems.
  • Describe vision system cameras.
  • Describe lighting techniques used in vision systems.
  • Describe vision system light types and sources.
  • Distinguish between a PC-based vision system and a smart camera vision system.
  • Describe vision system image acquisition and analysis.
  • Describe data communication and output of vision systems.

Job Roles



Vocabulary Term Definition
3D modeling The process of creating a 3D representation of a surface or object by manipulating geometric shapes in a simulated 3D space. 3D modeling has a variety of applications, such as allowing engineers to test a product design under specific conditions and make changes to the design.
6 degrees of freedom 6DoF. The possible directions of movement for an object. An object's 6 degrees of freedom include linear and rotational axes.
algorithms A logical and mathematical expression that models a process or action. Algorithms are coded into a computer program that forms the rules by which a digital image will be processed.
alphanumeric Containing both letters and numbers. Alphanumeric labels can be scanned and captured by vision system cameras.
area scan The process of reading and capturing image data as a defined matrix of pixels. Area scan may require objects to be stationary during scanning.
area scan camera A camera that reads and captures image data as a defined matrix of pixels. Area scan cameras take single snapshots and may require several scans to capture an entire scene or object.
assembly A manufacturing process in which two or more components are joined together to create a finished part. Assembly processes assisted by vision systems are efficient, consistent, and more accurate than human assembly.
autofocus lenses Vision system camera lenses that automatically adjust to focus at different working distances. Autofocus lenses adapt to changing conditions.
automation The use of self-regulated equipment, processes, or systems that meet manufacturing requirements with limited human intervention. Automation is an efficient means of performing manufacturing processes.
back lighting A lighting technique that places the light source behind the target object. Back lighting allows the vision system to better detect object edges.
bar light A vision system light source that consists of individual lights arranged in a linear or rectangular shape. Bar, or linear array, lights provide high-intensity illumination.
beam splitter An optical device with a semi-transparent mirror that divides a beam of light in two. A beam splitter allows light from one direction to be sent in another direction.
bright-field lighting A lighting technique that places the light source perpendicular to the object, usually so that the lighting source shines brightly on the surface. Bright-field lighting is a type of directional lighting.
charge coupled device CCD. A light-sensitive integrated circuit that passively stores pixels and converts them to electrical charges one line at a time. Charge coupled device sensors create high-quality, low-noise images.
co-axial lighting A lighting technique that places the light source to the side in order to transmit light onto a semi-transparent mirror and reflect it downward onto the target object. Co-axial lighting creates evenly illuminated images.
cobots A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A cobot, or collaborative robot, is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.
collaborative robots A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A collaborative robot, or cobot, is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.
color analysis An image processing technique that efficiently matches, differentiates, or analyzes the colors of an object. Color analysis may convert an image from color to monochrome for proper inspection.
complementary metal oxide semiconductor CMOS. A light-sensitive integrated circuit that stores pixels and converts each individual pixel into an electrical charge. Complementary metal oxide semiconductor sensors use less power than charge coupled device sensors but are more susceptible to noise.
dark-field lighting A lighting technique that places the light source at a low angle so that the light reflects off the target object, resulting in a darker overall image. Dark-field lighting is a type of directional lighting that reduces glare and highlights part features.
defects A severe discontinuity, or flaw, that can cause a part to be rejected. Defects can be detected through visual inspection or other forms of nondestructive testing.
diffused Spreading from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. Light sources can be diffused in order to evenly illuminate a part and prevent glare.
dimensions The measurements of a part. Dimensions for a part are usually described through the measurements of its height, width, and length.
directional lighting A lighting technique that places the light source on an object or specific area of the object. Directional lighting can create shadows to detect changes in depth, illuminate specific surface angles, and prevent glare on reflective surfaces.
dome light A vision system light source with a rounded semicircular shape. Dome lights can diffuse light and evenly illuminate an object.
dynamic range The range of luminosity that can be observed and captured with a camera. A camera with high dynamic range can capture many more features than a camera with low dynamic range.
edge detection An image processing technique that identifies the boundaries of objects in images. Edge detection assists machines in better handling parts.
ethernet A type of network connection that uses wires to enable communication between computing devices. Ethernet cables allow smart cameras to send images to computers.
feature extraction A process that reduces object data to specific data groups for image processing and analysis. Feature extraction focuses on only the most important identifying characteristics of an object.
fiber optic light A filament made of thin, flexible glass or plastic through which light is transmitted either to a remote location or from the outside of the filament. Fiber optic lights are durable, heat free, and easily controlled.
field of view FOV. The size of the area that a camera can see and capture in one image. Field of view is observed through the camera's lens.
fixed focus lenses Vision system camera lenses that can be used at only one specific working distance. Fixed focus lenses are best for predetermined working distances.
fixed lenses A vision system camera lens that is a permanent part of the camera. Fixed lenses are typically used in smart cameras.
fluorescent light A gas discharge lamp that uses fluorescence to produce visible light. Fluorescent light is used to illuminate larger areas.
focal length The distance between the center of a camera lens and the sensor in the camera. Focal length determines the magnification of the image.
frame grabber A vision system component that provides high-speed image capture and data transfer. Frame grabbers process data quickly to be used for output tasks.
geometric pattern matching An image processing technique that locates geometric features in a captured image using a template. Geometric pattern matching uses features such as shapes, dimensions, and angles.
hardware The physical equipment used in a computer system. Vision system hardware includes sensors, cameras, and lighting.
human-machine interface HMI. A device connected to a machine that allows operators to monitor and control a machine or process. A human-machine interface may have a touch screen or control pad.
hybrid vision system A vision system that combines features of both a smart camera and a PC-based vision system. Hybrid vision systems may be compact but also have increased processing power.
identification The process of visually recognizing a specific part or its features. Identification is important when sorting parts in a production line.
image acquisition The creation of a digitally encoded representation of the visual characteristics of an object or scene. Image acquisition is the first step in the machine vision process.
image sensor A device that detects the light gathered from a lens and converts it into an electrical signal. Image sensors collect the object's shape and surface information as pixels.
image sensor A device that detects the light gathered from a lens and converts it into an electrical signal. Image sensors collect the object's shape and surface information as pixels.
industrial robots A reprogrammable machine sometimes used in place of a person in a manufacturing setting. Industrial robots perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy.
infrared IR. Invisible light energy emitted by heated objects. Infrared light can be used to reduce the contrast between features.
inspection The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it adheres to specifications. Inspection tasks include checking for defects, tolerance, and label consistency.
interchangeable lenses A vision system camera lens that can be mounted to and removed from a camera. Interchangeable lenses allow a variety of image capture capabilities.
interfaced Connected by means of cables or communication protocol. PC-based vision system cameras are interfaced with computers by a variety of communication protocols.
lens A piece of glass shaped with two opposite curved surfaces that is used in optical instruments to form an image by focusing light. A lens can be different sizes for different resolutions.
light emitting diodes LED. A semiconductor device that emits a narrow spectrum of light in a forward direction. Light emitting diodes usually provide bright, white light but can come in other colors.
line scan The process of reading and capturing image data one line of pixels at a time. Line scan works well for continuous, high-resolution images.
line scan camera A camera that reads and captures image data one line of pixels at a time. Line scan cameras can record continuous images.
linear array light A vision system light source that consists of individual lights arranged in a linear or rectangular shape. Linear array, or bar, lights provide high-intensity illumination.
machine vision The technology used to extract information from an image to assist with automated manufacturing tasks. Machine vision is used for inspection, process control, and robot guidance.
manual focus lenses Vision system camera lenses that are manually adjusted to use at different working distances. Manual focus lenses give the user complete control over where to place the focus.
matrix A collection of elements arranged into a fixed number of rows and columns. Area scan cameras capture a matrix of pixels.
noise Random variation of brightness or color information in images. Noise can be reduced with proper lighting and high-resolution cameras.
one-dimensional 1D. Having only one measurable dimension: length, width, or depth. One-dimensional vision systems analyze a digital signal one line at a time.
optical character recognition OCR. An image processing technique that identifies alphanumeric characters. Optical character recognition converts text into characters formatted for machines.
optical character verification OCV. An image processing technique that checks the legibility and quality of text based on a fixed and known sequence of characters. Optical character verification is used for inspecting alphanumeric data.
orientation Position in three-dimensional space. Orientation is determined by using triangulation and 3D measurement.
PC-based vision systems A multi-component vision system that uses individual light sources and cameras interfaced with a separate computer. PC-based vision systems have greater processing power than smart cameras.
pixels The smallest piece of information in an image. When joined together, pixels form a cohesive image.
processor Electronic circuitry within a computer that executes instructions or performs operations. A processor can run machine vision algorithms on images.
protocols The standards and rules used by network devices to interact with each other. Protocols are the language that network devices use to communicate.
quartz halogen light An incandescent lamp consisting of a tungsten filament surrounded by halogen gas sealed into a quartz envelope that produces visible light. Quartz halogen lights are very bright and emit a lot of heat.
resolution The amount of pixels and detail in an image. Images with higher resolution are more detailed than images with lower resolution.
ring light A vision system light source with a circular shape. Ring lights typically fit around the camera lens.
sensitivity An instrument's degree of responsiveness to an incoming signal. Light sensitivity can affect the way an image is captured.
sensors A device that detects a change in a physical stimulus and turns it into a signal that can be measured or recorded. Sensors allow robots and other devices to interact with their environment and operate with little human intervention.
smart cameras A compact vision system that consists of lighting, image sensors, and processing software combined into one device. Smart cameras are easier to integrate into existing automated systems than PC-based vision systems.
software The coded instructions or programs that control computer hardware functions and operations. Software allows computers to process image data.
spotlight A vision system light source that consists of a condensed beam of light. Spotlights focus bright light in a specific area.
structured light A lighting technique that projects a contrasting light pattern onto a scene or an object. Structured light allows cameras to capture 3D surface measurements.
three-dimensional 3D. Having length, width, and depth. Three-dimensional vision systems produce images used for 3D modeling.
triangulation The process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles from the light source to a known point and the sensor. Triangulation is the main process used for capturing data with 3D vision systems.
two-dimensional 2D. Having length and width, but not depth. Two-dimensional vision systems produce two-dimensional images.
ultraviolet UV. A potentially harmful wavelength of light that is below, or shorter than, violet on the light spectrum. Ultraviolet light increases the contrast between features.
universal serial bus 3.0 USB3. A high-speed connection port on computers that is compatible with many different types of devices, such as memory cards and printers. Universal serial bus 3.0 cables can be used to transfer image data to another device.
verification The process of visually checking that a product, part, or system meets design specifications. Verification during part inspection is critical for manufacturing.
vision systems A collection of advanced optical components that collects data and forms an image, which is interpreted by a computer. Vision systems can be used to measure and inspect manufactured parts using the collected image data.
vision-guided robots VGR. A robot equipped with an image sensor or vision system. Vision-guided robots perform tasks with greater accuracy than human operators.
welding A joining process that permanently bonds two or more separate components. Welding can use heat, pressure, or both and is often performed by industrial robots.
working distance The linear space between the front of the camera lens and the target object. Working distance determines the type of camera lens used.
xenon light A gas discharge lamp that passes electricity through ionized xenon gas at high pressure to produce visible light. Xenon lights are used in strobe lights.