Quality Magazine

Innovative New Industrial Automation and Vision Systems Demonstrate FireWire's Versatility and Performance

December 13, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO-An innovative group of new industrial control, vision systems, and factory automation products introduced in 2010 demonstrate the role FireWire (IEEE 1394) has assumed in these growing market sectors. FireWire has become the interface of choice in products as diverse as scanning systems to detect lumber defects, a portable laser backpack capable of producing automatic 3-D maps of interiors, beer bottle production lines in South Korea, and solar cell wafer inspection.

Companies around the world continue an aggressive program to develop new generations of products for these global sectors. For example, Unibrain introduced a new series of lightweight FireWire industrial and machine vision cameras, featuring a very small and compact housing and form factor that provides optimal versatility. The newest versions use IEEE-1394 bus protocols and feature an optional external trigger to streamline the capture, digitization and processing of color video signals.

FireWire Moving to 1.6 Gigabit/Second Bandwidths

In addition, there is an effort now to increase the speed and bandwidth for video data transfer from the 800 Megabit/second provided by 1394b, to 1.6 Gigabits/second. DapTechnology, a supplier of IEEE 1394 protocol analyzers and solutions to the aerospace, defense, industrial, automotive and consumer electronics markets, which has demonstrated the industry’s first high speed S1600 1.6 Gigabit IEEE-1394b FireWire system-on-a-chip and analysis solution. DAPTechnology’s development and analysis/verification solution is consistent with an embedded development platform (FireESDK), a PCIe host adapter card (HAC1600) and the latest version of DapTechnology's analyzer model FireSpy1600.

Another example is Advantech, which has introduced new 1394-equipped embedded automation computers that handle very high data volumes in demanding environments, with the ability to deliver 3-D operation for machine vision applications or any industrial automation task which requires high processing capabilities.

Also, leaders such as Point Grey Systems have found their 1394 technology incorporated into very experimental and promising new systems. For example, a portable laser backpack has been developed at University of Calif., Berkeley for producing automatic and realistic 3-D maps of interiors. Funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Army Research Office the development team created sensor fusion algorithms that use cameras, lasers range finders, and inertial measurement units to generate textured, 3D models that operate without a GPS. To capture image data, the backpack is equipped with three 1.3-Mpixel FireWire cameras designed by Point Grey. By mounting these cameras orthogonally, a 3-D image of the scene can be captured as the user traverses a building.

Point Grey has also contributed to a new solar wafer inspection system with Tordivel Solar.

Scanning Systems for Lumber and Beer Bottles

Scanning lumber for defects can reduce waste and increase the amount of useable product. A system known as LumberID tracks the raw planks; as each one enters the system, the plank is lit from below using a white LED light source and imaged with a 2k 1 Pixel CCD camera. Images are captured, then transferred to a host PC using 1394. The CCD camera is made by ISG Chips, Inc. with a 50-millimeter lens from Nikon Corp.

A similar machine vision scanning system detects defects in beer bottles at South Korea’s Hite bottling plant. The company uses FireWire in a system developed when the company needed to inspect front, neck, and back labels for different bottle sizes and different product lines.

Another innovative product comes from Atravision, which has introduced the ScoobyV1.5 platform prototyping tool for evaluating performance of SMIA 1.0-compliant CMOS sensors. It is a complete hardware-firmware-software package that allows users to plug in MIPI or SMIA cameras, which are used in cell phones. Users can then control the cameras from a computer, to view or process images, measure current, voltages, and other specifications.

“FireWire has emerged as a true leader in an innovative and creative set of industrial products, vision systems, and automation systems, and we expect to see an increase in these kinds of applications in 2011,” said Max Bassler, 1394 Trade Association chairman. “With the advent of 1.6 Gigabit/second technology, strong software driver support, and the commitment of our 1394 Trade Association member companies, we expect the trends to continue.”

The 1394 Trade Association is a worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement of the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) standard. The Trade Association recently celebrated its 15th year of promoting 1394. FireWire is used today in mass-market computer, entertainment, and professional products, and in a wide range of specialty applications such as music, defense, aerospace, industrial, and robotics products. For more information, visit www.1394ta.org