Barbara Grant, Contributing Editor
Sophisticated machine vision systems, used in industry for a variety of tasks from wafer sorting to component-defect detection, are making inroads into agricultural and food processing applications as well. By performing tasks usually assigned to human inspectors, and by adding value with image analysis and decision-making functions, imaging systems are assuming more prominent roles in controlling the quality of food products delivered to supermarkets and restaurants around the world.
A basic machine vision system comprises an imager, a computer and software algorithms to provide some type of image interpretation or classification of image data. Most systems contain robotics or control system links for integration and operation within a factory environment, and some employ higher-level software for advanced decision-making capabilities.
Beyond their general similarities, however, machine vision systems designed for food and agricultural applications use a range of technologies. Some are custom-built for specific food industry applications, while others feature attributes that allow them to develop market niches outside the food processing industry.