The “scalable software business” is enabling the rapid growth of many of the current day disrupting companies, such as Uber and Airbnb. This should be a source of inspiration also for those of us working with software in combination with hardware. And why? Because “scalable” can also be spelled “flexible” or “adaptable” and that is something the manufacturing industry is looking for.
Here is a brief introduction to, how we try to apply this kind of mindset at IVISYS in our development of full vision system solutions. But first a bit of background and insights on the main challenges of our industry, the automated quality control industry:
Since the 1980s the use of vision systems–camera-based automated quality control–has spread to many industries. Many of these systems rely on so-called vision sensors (and smart cams) —small integrated units with optics, an output signal, a data processor and a software-pack. Most frequently, they are single-purpose units, programmed for performing only one type of inspection.
Is the tide turning against such single-purpose solutions? At IVISYS, we believe so.
Many of these are legacy-systems hailing from the vision industry’s early years. Often, they have limited or no use today, as they have shown to be too inflexible for the changing demands of current day manufacturing.
Two of the main obstacles for ongoing deployment of the early-generation vision systems is the lack of robustness and flexibility, mostly due to light distortions and inadequate data processing speed.
Light reflections and other variations related to the light source is one of the main challenges for these legacy vision systems, as small variations in reflected light distorts image data and thereby the robustness of the inspection.
Moreover, legacy systems often present manufactures to with a painful trade-off: Since each legacy vision sensor has a limited data processing capacity, manufacturers has to have multiple such sensors if they wish to control various quality points without losing production speed, and high-resolution inspections are only feasible if the production speed is low.
All-in-all, the outcome has often been unsatisfying levels of robustness and flexibility—as truly satisfying results are only achievable in environments with very stable light conditions with several sensors and long production cycles, all needing individual set-up and programming.
Luckily, the vision industry is characterized by a high level of innovation driven by a wide range of competing industry players, who all have their take on how to solve these well-known challenges.
At IVISYS, our approach is multidimensional. First of all, we have solved the lighting issue by developing our own light source solutions combined with limited light sensitivity in our image processing.
Secondly, we have decided to make data processing speed a priority. The ongoing revolution in general data processing capacity, following Moore’s law, has enabled several industry players to leverage Ultra High-Definition cameras, which has made a focus on data processing speed mandatory.
However, all vision system technology companies have access to pretty much the same optics as well as the same data processing hardware. Therefore, the specifications of a vision system’s data processing equipment do not really tell the full story about how a company will keep up with the increasing demand for even speedier solutions in the future.
Instead, manufacturers should really ask in-depth questions when considering a vision system. The real challenge is to develop software which is capable of handling ever increasing data flow levels. If the prospective provider cannot account for how they will be able to keep up with the ever-increasing levels of data available, they will most likely not be able to keep up with the customers’ demands. At IVISYS, our answer to such questions is that we rely on patented image data processing methods, built on novel data processing algorithms, powering our in-house developed software, backed up by test data.
In addition to the inspiration from the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world, we also must relate to a constantly changing environment driven by the rise of Internet of Things, rapidly improving optics and constantly changing data processing capabilities.
All this has made us convinced that the time is no longer only for small integrated single-purpose units. Instead, we believe in building up larger inspection stations, which is a ‘one-stop-shop- for all inspections of an object. Moreover, we provide ‘open solutions’, where each component is replaceable. In addition, the whole technical setup can be moved in its entirety—or alternatively be taken apart and assembled again. The end results are solutions, which are flexible in virtually all regards– ‘extreme configurability’.
In this manner, our solution resembles the ‘disrupter enablers’ as the customer will always be able to add new capabilities to our systems—and we will not miss any new emerging trends.
About the Author:
Jakob Kesje is one of the two founders of IVISYS, he has been a board member and CEO of the company since 2013. Jakob holds an MBA from CBS, Copenhagen Business School. Jakob is chairman of several company boards and has held multiple CEO positions prior to his position at IVISYS, mainly in the manufacturing industry, for companies such as FrontPac AB, FronPac Tryck AB and Frontprint AB. Moreover, Jakob has launched a number of companies and lead them on a path of continued growth, such as Frontwell AB, Johannesson & Co as well as Via Music.