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Light Sources For Machine Vision Systems

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    Machine vision systems often require bright and homogeneous illumination, so features of interest are easier to process. LEDs are often used for this purpose, and this is likely to remain one of their major uses until the price drops low enough to make signaling and illumination uses more widespread. Barcode scanners are the most common example of machine vision, and many low-cost products use red LEDs instead of lasers.[177] Optical computer mice are an example of LEDs in machine vision, as it is used to provide an even light source on the surface for the miniature camera within the mouse. LEDs constitute a nearly ideal light source for machine vision systems for several reasons:

  • The size of the illuminated field is usually comparatively small and machine vision systems are often quite expensive, so the cost of the light source is usually a minor concern. However, it might not be easy to replace a broken light source placed within complex machinery, and here the long service life of LEDs is a benefit.

  • LED elements tend to be small and can be placed with high density over flat or even-shaped substrates (PCBs etc.) so that bright and homogeneous sources that direct light from tightly controlled directions on inspected parts can be designed. This can often be obtained with small, low-cost lenses and diffusers, helping to achieve high light densities with control over lighting levels and homogeneity. LED sources can be shaped in several configurations (spot lights for reflective illumination; ring lights for coaxial illumination; backlights for contour illumination; linear assemblies; flat, large format panels; dome sources for diffused, omnidirectional illumination).

  • LEDs can be easily strobed (in the microsecond range and below) and synchronized with imaging. High-power LEDs are available allowing well-lit images even with very short light pulses. This is often used to obtain crisp and sharp "still" images of quickly moving parts.

  • LEDs come in several different colors and wavelengths, allowing easy use of the best color for each need, where different color may provide better visibility of features of interest. Having a precisely known spectrum allows tightly matched filters to be used to separate informative bandwidth or to reduce disturbing effects of ambient light. LEDs usually operate at comparatively low working temperatures, simplifying heat management, and dissipation. This allows using plastic lenses, filters, and diffusers. Waterproof units can also easily be designed, allowing use in harsh or wet environments (food, beverage, oil industries).[177]


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