For especially demanding machine vision applications, Vision Components (Ettlingen, Germany) supplies the VC4467/NIR, a highly sensitive image processing system in the shape of a barely fist-sized camera. VC4467-type cameras feature an EXview HAD CCD sensor from Sony which detects both visible light waves and long wave light near the infrared spectrum. They ensure very precise image recording even in low-light conditions. The new VC4467/NIR’s sensor has been modified in order to further increase sensitivity in the near infrared range; as a result, the camera supplies high-quality data at wavelengths up to 1,100 nanometers. The camera is thereby optimally suited for tasks such as electroluminescence (EL) quality control in the photovoltaic industry.

Monitoring the production of solar cells, it reliably detects and identifies defects such as micro cracks, shunts, and disconnected fingers. The intelligent NIR camera also meets all requirements for night-time use. Even at a distance, image capture is effective.

The resolution equals that of similar systems on the market which do not feature integrated intelligence. Unlike those, the cost-efficient and highly flexible VC solutions do not require cooling systems, since they include all image processing electronics and are able to operate without any additional PC systems. The intelligent cameras independently run functions such as motion detection and license plate recognition.

Optional robust housings provide protection for outdoor applications. Measuring just 110 x 50 x 35 millimeters, the units can be integrated even in small spaces. The absence of moving parts makes the systems, which weigh only 400 grams, an ideal choice for mobile applications. Just like all intelligent cameras from Vision Components, the VC4467/NIR processes several images in parallel and transmits the data in real-time. Equipped with a 1 GHz processor from Texas Instruments, it has a computing power of 8,000 MIPS. The 2/3-inch CCD sensor has a 1,280 x 1,024 pixel resolution and provides a maximum frame rate of 14 frames per second (28 frames per second in binning mode). Standard camera models are equipped with 4 MB Flash EPROM and 64 MB SDRAM for program and image storage, which can be optionally extended by a 128 MB SD card. Additionally, the Smart Camera comes with four digital PLC inputs and outputs each, an SVGA video output, an RS232 and an Ethernet interface, a high-speed encoder interface, and an external trigger input that enables jitter-free image recording even at high reading frequencies. Users can easily adapt the cameras to specific requirements by means of the programming languages C and C++.

Software libraries for many applications such as motion detection and face recognition are available. Combined with the VC Solar Solution software library, the VC4467/NIR is an autonomous robot guidance solution for solar cell production. The sister model VC4067/NIR has successfully proven itself as an OEM product in various applications, e.g. in solar cell production and in the security industry, for instance in perimeter protection and access control.