STADTRODA, GERMANY - In 2009, Allied Vision Technologies celebrates its 20th anniversary. In two decades, the company that was founded as a distributor of analog cameras has advanced, with development know-how and high quality, to become a worldwide leader in the manufacture of digital cameras for industrial and scientific imaging.

Allied Vision Technologies, a manufacturer of digital cameras for industrial imaging, is turning 20. On March 6, 1989, the company was founded as Manfred Sticksel CCD Kameratechnik GmbH in Alzenau, Germany. Founder Sticksel established himself within the German market as an importer and distributor of analog cameras and components for industrial imaging. Renamed Allied Vision Technologies in 2001, the company no longer has much in common with the firm of that time: it has evolved from being a distributor into a camera developer and manufacturer that has made a name for itself in digital technology. Headquartered in Stadtroda in the German Federal State of Thuringia, the manufacturer of cameras for industrial imaging now employs more than 130 people at four locations in Germany, the United States and Canada. Here is a look back at its success story.

Tailor-Made Camera Solutions

Manfred Sticksel CCD Kameratechnik GmbH quickly established itself as the exclusive importer of Sony analog camers for industrial imaging, with a focus on the German market. Even in the early years, the young company distinguished itself with its pronounced customer-centered orientation. It was clear early on that the infinite diversity of imaging applications could not always be addressed with standard solutions, so Sticksel developed particular competency in recognizing specific customer requirements and in developing tailor-made camera modifications - a key to later success.

This culture of customer dialogue and application-specific special development still runs deep at Allied Vision Technologies: AVT engineers’ expertise is put to use not only in the development of new, innovative camera families, but for special projects as well. A large share of cameras sold by AVT deviates from the standard model so as to create an optimal fit with the individual needs of each client application. This flexibility is now incorporated into AVT’s modular concept of its various camera series’ construction: along with standard construction, variations using an array of sensors, housings, angled heads and interfaces can be added according to need. The AVT Stingray camera, for example, has over 2,500 variations available, thanks to this modular concept.

High-Tech Quality ‘‘Made in Germany'‘

Thanks to its extensive know-how in camera modifications, Sticksel was awarded a large order in 1995 for the fabrication of a camera it developed for Siemens Siplace PCB assembly machines. As a direct result of this order, the course for in-house production was set. In 1996, the company opened its own production facility in Stadtroda near Jena, in the newly reunited Germany, taking full advantage of the cumulative competencies among the highly qualified labor pool in this stronghold of optical technology. Over the years, a highly modern production facility arose in Stadtroda, its methods meeting the highest possible standards: processes are all ISO 9001 certified and meet the requirements and norms of the ESA (European Space Agency). For complex demands, such as those of medical technology, clean rooms of dust classes 100,000 and 10,000 are available. In 2008, a new production facility at the Stadtroda location allowed for double the capacity along with further modernization of production processes.

Analog Goes Digital

In 2000, Manfred Sticksel CCD Kameratechnik was taken over by AUGUSTA Technologie AG, and in September 2001 was reorganized as Allied Vision Technologies. Along with the new proprietor came new ambitions, investments, and a new strategic direction. What was once a successful German distributor and modifier of analog cameras became a globally active developer and manufacturer of digital interface cameras.

Alongside the expansion of production in Stadtroda in 2001, an R&D Center was opened in Ahrensburg near Hamburg and development engineers were recruited. Within one year, the first AVT digital camera developed in house - the Dolphin - was a reality. AVT hit the ground running on the digital FireWire interface (IEEE 1394), already prevalent in consumer electronics. With its digital cameras and expertise in FireWire technology, Allied Vision Technologies accompanied the industrial imaging’s migration from analog to digital in the years that followed, and in so doing, tapped into the industry zeitgeist.

The product portfolio grew swiftly on the heels of this success. Within seven years, six new camera families were created: Dolphin, Marlin, Oscar, Guppy, Pike and Stingray. Along with quality, attractive cost/performance ratio and modular design, the little red cameras sold the experts with their so-called ‘‘Smart Features,’‘ comprehensive intelligent functions that optimize image quality even within the camera electronics to prepare image data for efficient processing in the system computer.

Today, Allied Vision Technologies’ product portfolio counts nine camera families. Alongside FireWire, GigE Vision - the new Gigabit Ethernet interface for the transfer of large quantities of image data - entered the portfolio with the acquisition of Canadian manufacturer Prosilica. With both platforms, Allied Vision Technologies offers the two leading digital interfaces for industrial imagining of the future out of one hand

International Growth

Success in the market led to rapid growth at Allied Vision Technologies: between 2002 und 2007, volume and personnel tripled. AVT is now represented by 25 sales partners in more than 30 countries around the world. In 2006, the company opened its first foreign subsidiary, Allied Vision Technologies Inc. in Newburyport, MA, which is responsible for sales and support in North America. In 2009, a second subsidiary in Asia is set to open.

The most recent milestone in the history of Allied Vision Technologies is the takeover of Canadian camera manufacturer Prosilica Inc. Located in Burnaby near Vancouver, Prosilica has made a name for itself as a trailblazer in GigE technology. With this acquisition, AVT gained additional development and production capacity in North America, along with a profound knowledge base in the Gigabit Ethernet interface.

‘‘Allied Vision Technologies is twenty. That’s young, but in our young industry, at the same time it’s a ripe old age,’‘ says Frank Grube, president and CEO. ‘‘We’ve achieved a lot in these twenty years and built a solid foundation for expanding our leading role in the market still farther.’‘