Put simply, machine vision's primary task is to distinguish features of interest from their background. But things are not so simple in the electronics industry, where the features of interest continue to shrink against backgrounds that often provide poor contrast. As electronics manufacturers pack more performance into ever-smaller devices, the vision systems driving electronics assembly lines will need more innovative solutions. Pick-and-place equipment performs automated placement of most electronic devices onto other components, such as printed circuit boards. Although all of these systems share the same basic function, the equipment parameters vary greatly depending on the application, the assembly itself and the interconnection methods used. Challenges typically revolve around providing machine vision systems with a clear image of the components and the board on which they are placed. The illumination scheme and the cameras' optics are frequently as important as the set of vision algorithms applied. Meet the author Jacques Coderre is a product manager for advanced semiconductor assembly at Universal Instruments Corp. in Binghamton, NY.