PC-DMIS software integrates CAD into the inspection process. Upgrade packages make this technology available for wide range of existing vision and mulitsensor hardware platforms. Source: Wilcox Associates

The development of 3-D measurement software products for vision and multisensor measurement systems has trailed the development of CAD-based CMM software by nearly a decade. As a result, there is a vast population of installed vision system hardware platforms that have underachieving software.

Most vision and multisensor software products have been either 2-D or 2 1/2-D solutions with minimal integration to CAD software. Within the past five years, viable CAD-based 3-D software for vision and multisensor systems has been introduced to the marketplace and is now a standard offering with some new hardware. However, the vast majority of vision and multisensor equipment is handicapped with software that hasn’t changed much in a couple decades. So it’s no wonder that users would be very interested in upgrading the capabilities of existing vision systems with something as simple as a software upgrade.

Upgrade Advantages

Today’s most advanced vision and multisensor software has robust CAD integration that fully supports true volumetric calibration and measurement, on- and off-line CAD-based programming, as well as tactile and vision-based measurement of complex features such as slots and profiles. Some of these programs may be efficiently edited in a random fashion, regardless of the original programming sequence.

Advanced vision and multisensor software may also support a wide range of alternative sensors including white light and lasers. Some of these software upgrades accommodate rotary- and stacking-rotary tables to minimize setups, while ensuring proper presentation of the sensor to the part at all times. Proprietary functions, such as advanced edge detection filtering and automatic capture of multiple features within the camera frame, make it possible to dramatically improve vision measurement performance and throughput.

In addition to making vision and multisensor systems more capable and easy to use, graphical 3-D programming environments can also generate graphic reports that make measurement results easier to visualize and use. Engineers, machinists and others who need the information can see the results immediately and quickly make the appropriate adjustments to drawings or cutter paths without having to interpret extensive tabular data.

Software upgrades allow users to get all of their vision and multisensor system hardware platforms on the same measurement software. The common software platform PC-DMIS Vision, will also support many other types of equipment including CMMs, measuring robots, laser trackers, and even on-machine measurement with spindle probes. This commonality reduces training costs and allows users to become proficient on many different types of measurement equipment because the programming environment is identical.

What Can Be Upgraded?

Many types of vision and multisensor system hardware exist in the marketplace today. It is not feasible for software vendors to develop upgrades for all of these. That being said, the good news is that cost-effective upgrades are available for a majority of the vision and multi-sensor systems sold prior to 2007 including OGP, Ram Optical, Tesa and Mycrona systems. Some Nikon and Mitutoyo vision systems are also upgradeable.

Whether or not upgrades are available for your vision or multisensor product depends on a number of factors. You shouldn’t automatically assume that your hardware would not qualify for an upgrade. The best practice is to determine which software meets your requirements, and then ask the vendor if he can provide an upgrade for your particular equipment.

Software vs. Controller Upgrades

Some vision and multisensor software upgrades also require the control to be upgraded. For example, some vendors have encrypted the controllers on their equipment making it impossible for third-party software developers to interface products with them. These users will have to pay not only for the new software but also to upgrade the machines’ controllers. Many users will find the cost of this approach prohibitive or may decide that more can be obtained for the money by trading in the older equipment for a new or even used system with more capable measurement software.

On the other hand, there is a large amount of equipment with controllers that will communicate directly with CAD-based 3-D measurement software via special postprocessors written by the measurement software vendor. This is a fortunate situation, since it allows the user to upgrade the equipment’s measurement capabilities simply by plugging in a personal computer containing the new software.

Programs can be generated in the software’s graphic programming environment and run immediately on the measurement system. If there are many older measurement programs that can only be phased out over time, it’s a simple matter to plug-in a computer with the old software to measure legacy parts. This allows the user to make an orderly transition from the older to the new measurement system without having to reprogram large numbers of legacy parts.

What's the Rush?

If upgrading your vision and multisensor software has been on your radar screen for a while, now may be a very good time to start evaluating your options and purchasing the upgrade of your choice. There has been an enormous amount of interest in upgrade packages and many companies are only waiting for their funding to be approved before jumping in.

It is very likely that there will be a time in the near future where many users will make the decision to move forward in the same timeframe. At that point some will have to endure long lead times or choose a different product that does not meet all of their requirements.

Don't be one of them. A software upgrade for even recently purchased vision and multisensor systems is like having a new supercharged machine at a fraction of the cost. It is a decision that is not worth putting off.