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Toshi Wada, Machine vision sales, Tamron Europe GmbH

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How did you come to be part of the imaging / machine vision industry?

Our company began as a manufacturer of photographic lenses for SLR cameras, and we still have a superb reputation in that market.

We soon found out that our optical technology should not be limited only to photographic lenses, and tried to enter new markets, with the machine vision sector being one of them.

This market needs very high accuracy and durability of any product, and the lens is one of the most important components in the whole system. To meet various customer requirements we launched our C-mount machine vision lenses, which have focal lengths from wide to telephoto.

How do you convince customers that they need machine vision?

For an industrial world like today’s, a machine vision system in factories is inevitable. So we do not convince our customers, but the customers search for the most effective, quickest, and best cost-performance method – which is normally a machine vision system. The machine vision system is more accurate than human eyes. From a lens point of view, it works similar to a human eye. Both lens and the eye have an iris that controls the amount of light.

Both of them can focus near to far to cope with the exact point of the object. By integrating the lens to the machine vision system, this can check the point of interest more accurately and rapidly, and also functions by saving, sorting, and selecting various data by software.

What role does Europe have in the development of machine vision?

As seen in other industries, the power of Asia represented by China is increasing in the European machine vision market. It is estimated that Asia will surpass Europe for the machine vision market in the future. But I do not fully agree with this, and still assume that the European players have a strong chance to increase business. Germany is the biggest machine vision country in Europe, and ‘Made in Germany’ products are still popular in this market. This is not only because of the brand of Germany (which is associated with high quality), but also because of the high reliability of the products, meaning the users will often be a repeat customer once they have used that product. If Europe can continue to find more repeat customers of their products, not only will the reliability of the machine vision system increase, but also the customer satisfaction will be maintained at a high level.

What do you see as the major growth sectors?

In camera interfaces I think the GigE will see a major increase in the market. But there are pros and cons for each interface, so I am not sure which one will be the leading interface for the future. For growing sectors in machine vision, I think non-industrial applications, or applications that cannot be categorised in current groups, will increase. I think it is a challenge to find out which group is the most growing sector, because there are many types of non-industrial applications in the market nowadays and it is very difficult to foresee which application will be huge.

What do you see as the most important technological challenges facing the industry?

For designing and manufacturing the lenses, there is no dramatic change, and it is manufactured in a rather old-fashioned way – in other words, the process needs enormous experience from the past. Digital technology  can help this traditional method, like CAD design systems or efficient tooling development, but the basic method is the same. This really results in unique product development and accurate production by our engineers.

What do you see as being the most significant commercial change in the industry during the years ahead?

As far as Europe is concerned, I believe the Eastern countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, will be more important in the future.

There are many German factories in these countries, all of which need machine vision systems. It may take some time for these countries to emerge in the top field, but I think there is much potential there.

And looking at the rest of the world, I suppose China will be the main growth country for the machine vision industry.

TOSHI WADA

Machine vision sales, Tamron Europe GmbH