Quality Magazine

Quality Innovations: Compliant Cameras

May 27, 2009
The Camera Commander from Sarnoff Corp. tests cameras, simplifying a potentially all-day process to a few clicks and a few minutes.

Camera Commander is a complete CMOS and CCD imaging device and camera testing system comprised of a computer, monitor and software package for automated, high-speed inspection and analysis. Source: Sarnoff Corp.


Improving quality is one thing, while cutting costs and providing products on time is another.

One company recently introduced a product that aims to tackle all three.

The Camera Commander from Sarnoff Corp. (Princeton, NJ) tests cameras, simplifying a potentially all-day process to a few clicks and a few minutes.

Camera Commander is a complete complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and charge coupled device (CCD) imaging device and camera testing system comprised of a computer, monitor, hardware and software package for automated, high-speed inspection and analysis to assess product quality and to evaluate the fit for a target application. Typically testing takes less than 5 minutes per camera compared to the hours or days for equivalent testing with in-house methods.

In addition to reducing the test time, the system also may increase testing capabilities. Before customers may have tested one product in a batch, but now they are able to test each product. Results are automatically saved on the hard drive.

The Camera Commander is the first imaging testing system compliant with the European Machine Vision Association (EMVA) 1288 standard, enabling quality control of incoming and outgoing imaging products. EVMA-1288 is the method for characterization and presentation of technical specifications of image sensors and cameras. The standard aims to benefit sensor and camera vendors and their customers by providing data that allows such products to be rapidly evaluated and compared.

George Kim, product manager for Sarnoff, says the product will help the machine vision industry grow, and it is targeted toward both machine vision manufacturers and users.

For the manufacturers, it provides a tool to validate a product before shipping it. Sarnoff discovered that many manufacturers are using an in-house testing system instead of conforming to the EMVA standard.

Without a uniform basis for comparison, customers may have difficulty comparing products. For example, if a customer looks at three different cameras from different vendors, each with a different spec sheet, it can be difficult to determine which is best for the application. Camera Commander’s reports provide an apples-to-apples comparison of various products on the market that are difficult to evaluate using in-house testing systems.

Today very few companies strictly follow the EMVA-1288 standard, Kim says. Most rely on an internally developed test set with different test sets used for different customers, which may not be NIST-traceable, or companies simply do not test each product, validating only selected products.

“This tool makes it easy for anyone to follow the industry standard,” Kim says.

Camera Commander’s reports can provide an apples-to-apples comparison to various products on the market that are difficult to evaluate using in-house testing systems. Source: Sarnoff Corp.

While some camera manufacturers have spent more than a million dollars developing their own test system, Kim says that is no longer necessary with this tool, which costs less than $100,000. In addition, any technician can use it and understand the results.

“It’s a great tool for quality engineers or managers to have an extra set of eyes to see if it meets the EMVA standard,” Kim says.

The biggest battle is the internal perceptions, Kim says, as managers wonder if they need to follow the standard. While it may not be required, following an internationally recognized standard can improve the testing process.

The company looks to capitalize on the burgeoning machine vision market. “Most machine vision camera companies are relatively small in size, but growing,” Kim says. “The industry is growing.”

And the Camera Commander aims to help that growth. The product, released at the end of January at Photonics West, has generated a lot of interest so far, Kim says.

The system is modular and expandable. It follows EMVA, and is calibrated to the NIST standard as well. “There’s no reason why we can’t do more,” Kim says. The company developed the product so modules easily can be added to the software. Sarnoff has been working on the software for about three years overall, adding the system integrity in the last six months of development.

Though the system fits machine vision applications, either for camera manufacturers or OEM users, it also can be used for government or research applications.

Screening cameras before starting a project is helpful in this economy, Kim points out, and should save in both operation time and cost.

The product also can help organizations communicate better. With global manufacturing, companies may have facilities in the United States, Mexico and Singapore, but within a day, they can ensure the quality of hundreds of cameras. The system can be used for different types of cameras and will save settings for each so they do not have to be done twice.

By clicking the test button, operators can store the serial number, all of the data and the EMVA report. “That’s the part our customers really like about it,” Kim says.



Technology Contact

For more information about the Camera Commander, contact:

George Kim, Sarnoff Corp.
201 Washington Rd., Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 734-2631
info@sarnoff.com, www.sarnoff.com/products

Specifications

  • Turnkey solution for fundamental testing of CCD/CMOS Sensors/Cameras
  • Reduces development and production cycle time and cost
  • Fully compliant to European Machine Vision Association (EMVA-1288) Standard
  • NIST-traceable calibrated system
  • Imaging area up to 2 inches diameter
  • 400 to 1,100 nanometers (five filter choices)
  • Supports Camera Link, GigE, Firewire and USB data output
  • Upgradeable for additional test requirements