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Technology: Machine Vision

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2009
No Failure to Communicate

Hank Hogan, hank@hankhogan.com

No man is an island, and no machine vision camera is, either. The connections that tie them into the rest of the system involve interface protocols such as GigE Vision, Camera Link and IEEE-1394. Over the next few years, the speed, capabilities and options for these protocols will grow.

IMcomm_GigEVisionPlugFest.jpg
GigE Vision Plug Fest – Plugging GigE Vision in more ways than one, plug fests test interoperability between different vendors’ products. Courtesy of Automated Imaging Association.


A single camera programming standard for all the major digital protocols also should finally be realized, said Friedrich Dierks, chairman of the GenICam standards group. Dierks, who heads software development at Basler Vision Technologies in Ahrensburg, Germany, noted good recent progress in GenICam, a standardized unified programming interface for cameras. The most important development is a prototype of the Camera Link support that is now available. A full product launch is expected in June 2009.

“With that extension, the users will enjoy a standardized GenICam API, application programming interface, and GUI, graphical user interface, for Camera Link devices as they have it today already with GigE Vision, 1394 and USB cameras,” he said.

Camera Link and GigE Vision

With regard to Camera Link, Jeff Fryman, director of standards development for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Automated Imaging Association, said that a meeting at the Vision show in Stuttgart, Germany, in November clarified things. The next version of the standard will include revisions to cable construction and testing requirements, an update of the Power over Camera Link specification for a medium and full configuration and the introduction of a version of Power over Camera Link in a new 14-pin form suitable for miniaturized applications.

As for when these new features will be rolled out, Fryman indicated that it would be soon. “Depending on a couple of decisions we still have to make, I would say two to six months.”

Beyond that, a subcommittee has been formed to explore the next generation of Camera Link. Although what gets developed and implemented remains to be seen, very general parameters would include faster data transfer for longer distances, Fryman said. That would mean speeds greater than the current 680 MB per second and cable runs over 10 m.

The Automated Imaging Association also controls the GigE Vision standard. A new version is ready to release. This revision will contain cleanup documentation but no new features.

Substantial changes are in store, though. Higher-speed transmission is under consideration, with a tenfold improvement possible through the use of 10 Gigabit Ethernet instead of the Gigabit Ethernet over which GigE Vision current runs. There’s no timeline for when 10 GigE Vision will become available.

What’s hot in FireWire

FireWire, IEEE-1394, also has seen recent changes. The Dallas-based 1394 Trade Association recently unveiled a new version of its machine vision digital camera specification, with improvements in bandwidth efficiency, image buffer functionality, and a change in encoding that simplifies camera implementations for many image sensors and imaging architectures.

Work is also under way on a major change to the specification, which will be a redesign from the ground up aimed at simplifying the construction of 1394-based industrial cameras. The new standard is expected to be available by the end of 2009.


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