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Thursday, October 20, 2011

National Instruments Expands Smart Camera Family With Seven New Models

Atom processor provides colour and high resolution and IP67 for the first time 

By Nick Flaherty

National Instruments has added seven new models to its NI Smart Camera family, including colour and high-resolution options. The new NI 177x Smart Cameras feature a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor for increased processing power and an IP67 rating to protect the hardware from dust and water, making the cameras ideal for industrial inspection applications that require high-performance in a rugged form factor. The cameras also have a real-time operating system to deliver the reliability and determinism needed on a production floor.
Using the Intel Atom processor, the new cameras deliver processing speeds four times greater than other NI Smart Cameras. They also add new sensor options, including VGA, 1.3 MP and 2 MP in colour and monochrome as well as 5 MP in monochrome. The new sensor options make the cameras well suited for applications that require higher resolution image acquisition such as metrology and detection of small defects as well as colour imaging such as LED validation for electronics. The mechanical housing, M12 connectors and lens cover give the 177x Smart Cameras an IP67 rating, which makes the cameras dust- and water-resistant and suitable for environments with washdowns. The new cameras are the first National Instruments products to offer an IP67 rating. 
The cameras include four digital input and four digital output lines and support several industrial communication protocols including RS232 (Serial, Modbus serial) and Ethernet (TCP/IP, Ethernet/IPModbus TCP). Using the signals generated from these networks, engineers can dynamically control lighting or cameras, synchronise with a conveyor belt, drive mechanisms for sorting parts or integrate the smart cameras with programmable logic controllers. The cameras also include a VGA video out connection for monitoring inspection images.
“National Instruments is excited to expand the NI Smart Camera family of products with new, high-performance cameras in a rugged form factor,” said Eric Starkloff, Vice President of Product Marketing at National Instruments. “What sets NI Smart Cameras apart, in addition to our exceptional hardware performance, is our software. Our vision software works with all types of hardware on the production floor, and this single platform approach helps our customers reduce maintenance and development costs.”
The 177x Smart Cameras are shipped with Vision Builder for Automated Inspection (AI) 2011 software, a menu-driven, interactive environment for configuring, benchmarking and deploying vision systems. Engineers can use the software to configure the camera, create custom user interfaces, acquire images, set up triggering and lighting, perform image processing steps and communicate results through I/O or industrial communication networks. The cameras can also be programmed using LabVIEW graphical programming and the NI Vision Development Module for advanced customisation and integration with other National Instruments hardware. Features introduced with the 2011 versions of Vision Builder AI and the NI Vision Development Module include new calibration tools with improved accuracy and the ability to save single camera calibration parameters for easy reuse; stronger data matrix decoding; morphological reconstruction; structural similarity (SSIM) index for video quality analysis; and new calipher algorithm feature for metrology.
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